McBride Community Forest gets back on its feet

Rob Pepper chats with Jeff McWilliams (centre) and Wes Bieber (right) about the Community Forest’s tentative winter harvest plans at an open house last week.
Rob Pepper chats with Jeff McWilliams (centre) and Wes Bieber (right) about the Community Forest’s tentative winter harvest plans at an open house last week.

Several blocks targeted for winter season & 2016

By Laura Keil

After putting a halt to logging in September due to overcutting, the McBride Community Forest Corporation (MCFC) is preparing to open up several new cut blocks for the winter and the coming year.

At an open house last week, MCFC consultants Wes Bieber and Jeff McWilliams showed maps of areas they plan to target.

The areas include Block 2 (Bell Mtn) – mostly White Wood (Balsam and Spruce) and several cedar blocks, notably Block 29 (near Martinson Creek, accessed from Westlund Road), Block 31 (up the Goat River north of McBride) and Block 30 (rd access from Bell Mtn Rd).

Bieber says the MCFC can harvest 6000 m3 before the end of 2015 with another 42,000m3 next year.
They will likely harvest 42,000m3 a year for the next five years provided the waste assessment is straightened out and they obtain a Grade 4 Exemption (an exemption on cedar). That’s lower than the 50,000m3/year they are allotted, because they have to make up for the over-cutting in the last cut period.

“If you log more, then you have to log less. That hasn’t happened to date,” says Bieber.

BKB Cedar mill owner and operator Raj Basran says he took a look at Block 31 up the Goat River and says it has good cedar for his mill. He has a contract with MCFC for 15,000 cubic metres/year.
Between Block 31 and Block 29 he says he will have enough fibre for the coming year. That said, his 15 employees are still out of work most weeks as they wait for the MCFC blocks to open up.

Basran says he is late fulfilling several orders and hopes to get that done by the end of the year so he can secure new contracts for 2016. For him, timing is everything. He needs to tell his main customer, Menards, how much wood he is able to provide by the end of this fall – otherwise the 2016 season could be a bust.

“I’m just waiting for their process to take place,” Basran told the Goat on Monday.

Bieber says the timeline on opening Block 29 is uncertain. He says they are aware of the potential for snowmobilers to skirt paying tolls if block 29 links up the lower valley to Lucille Mountain Road. The block also overlaps with a range license. They plan to cover off both concerns by reserving some timber up top and not connecting it above. Part of the block has a Visual Quality Objective of Retention, meaning there are limitations to logging based on the view from below.
Block 31, on the other hand, has fewer access issues and may even provide a better quality cedar, he says.

The Bell Mountain block (Block 2) was logged previously in 2013 and 2014 and Bieber says they want to finish up the block by the end of 2016. They say it contains roughly 29,000m3 of white wood.
Part of the block has a Visual Quality Objective of Partial Retention.

There’s a safety issue with Block 2, however, as a snowmobile access has a 200m overlap with the forestry cut block, but it’s a problem Bieber says can be resolved with radios and/or cell phones.

The MCFC board put a halt to logging in early September after discovering they were over their cut limit for the year and learning the company has wasted too much wood – approx. 34,000m3.

The MCFC Board hired consultants in September to review the organization and untangle the current bureaucratic web. It turns out, for instance, that the high waste assessment was a mistake – a “paper error” only.

“We’ve checked the waste assessments that we’ve done and they’re different by 35,000m3 from what they’ve charged us with,” says Bieber. “We think it’s an error that will come in our favour,”

The consultants also liaised with the District Manager and the Province to re-set the 5-year agreement so they won’t have to pay stumpage penalties (the agreement was re-set retroactively to Jan 1st 2015). They will still have to make up for the over-logging that was done during the last agreement, however. That means decreasing the amount logged until 2020.

Some have speculated that the reason for the overcutting was the anticipation of acquiring a new tenure from Carrier Lumber, which may have allowed the swapping of cuts. The long-time MCFC manager was let go in August by the Board of Directions, which was comprised of the new Village Council elected to office last November.

McWilliams says they have told the board to hold off on hiring a new manager until they have restructured the Board. In the meantime, McWilliams and Bieber are acting as interim managers and guiding the corporation with input from the board of directors.

Mayor Loranne Martin, who sits on the MCFC board, could not be immediately reached for comment by presstime.

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