Board structure on agenda for Saturday’s AGM
By LAURA KEIL
The McBride Community Forest (MCFC) is seeking proposals to salvage wood from a block of mature cedar and hemlock that was mostly piled as waste.
Block 28 was authorized last summer as a stop-gap measure to help the local mill BKB Cedar get enough fibre to prevent employee lay-offs. The block had been laid out by former manager Marc von der Gonna, but the authorization was given to log it by the MCFC board after von der Gonna was let go and before the new interim managers were hired.
The block has become a source of embarrassment for the community forest due to the large debris piles and little usable wood that was harvested.
The real problem isn’t that the block was authorized, says one of MCFC’s current managers, but rather that logging wasn’t stopped when the Community Forest realized the cedar largely wasn’t suitable as Grade 4.
“The quality of the wood was much lower than anticipated so (the MCFC) logged a portion of the block and all we did was generate a lot of waste,” says Jeff McWilliams of BA Blackwell and Associates, the firm currently acting as interim manager. “We did not remove very much valuable timber at all. In fact, I think we maybe got 10 loads off the block before we stopped harvesting.”
Now, mature cedar and hemlock trees loaded into waste piles are visible from Hwy 16, putting an uncomfortable spotlight on logging waste. McWilliams notes it is difficult to assess the worth of mature cedar trees before cutting them down, since the centre of the tree is often rotten – how rotten determines whether or not they are usable as Grade 4 cedar (used as post and rail, for example). Even so, the logging should have been stopped earlier, he says.
At a public meeting in June, loggers and members of the public asked how such a huge amount of waste was produced, including potentially lucrative timber.
“My question is this,” said Bryan Monroe. “Why are there saw logs in the dump pile?”
McWilliams said at the meeting that they are “really uncomfortable” with how the block looks and the possibility of simply burning it.
He said they are willing to consider a wide range of options to see if any timber can be salvaged.
“We’re open to suggestions to even just try and use that wood – even if it costs us money.”
BKB Cedar owner Raj Basran agreed with another person at the meeting that they need to sample a pile to get an estimate of the salvageable wood available.
“It’s a tough sell. You probably would find some (Gr. 4 cedar) just like you’d probably find some saw logs, but … with cedar every tree is so different,” he says. “You could spend a whole lot bringing machinery and guys in there and get nothing.”
This week, the MCFC put out a request for proposals for the block, asking for companies to pitch ideas for using “all to part of about 900m3 of Cedar and about 100m3 Hemlock of waste wood from debris piles and a few log decks.”
Even though the wood is mostly salvage wood, anything removed from the site would be weight scaled and stumpage of $0.25/m3 will still be payable to the Province.
In an interview this week, McWilliams told the Goat there has been been a number of people who have expressed interest in biomass supply from the community forest.
“Given that there’s some potential interest in the community and outside the community for this (waste wood), before we disposed of the waste, we thought we would see if there would be any businesses willing to partner with us to use the wood.”
McWilliams says before they can do anything, they have to complete a waste assessment – planned for the next few weeks. The MCFC would only be penalized if the assessor finds there’s usable (Gr. 4 or better) wood in the debris piles.
This Saturday’s annual general meeting will include proposals for a new structure of the MCFC board, a bone of contention for many in the community.
“It’s a very important AGM,” McWililams says. “A lot of what’s happened in the last year, we’re hoping it will lead to some substantial change that will occur on Saturday.”
Many community members believe the board should be more at arm’s length from the Village Council to avoid politicizing it.
Mayor Loranne Martin says while there are concerns about the shareholder (the Village) being at arm’s length from board, there are also concerns about tax liability. She says they are hoping to find out recommendations from their auditors at KPMG this week.