By Andru McCracken
The McBride Community Forest held its annual general meeting October 26th 2017.
McBride Community Forest Chair Joseph Rich said the McBride Community Forest Corporation underwent many changes over the past year, including the Board of Directors being elected for the first time.
“The result was a strong board full of experience and enthusiasm. Our meetings have become thoughtful and productive with plenty of room for debate, resulting in well thought out decisions,” said Rich.
“The tragic BKB mill fire was a major setback for Basrans as well as the community as a whole. As they move forward with rebuilding the mill, MCFC has committed to working with BKB to ensure all of the available fibre is made as accessible to them as possible, at the same time keeping a high level of commitment for fibre supply to the mills currently operating,” he said.
He thanked Cedar 3 for stepping up production to employ more people after the fire.
Rich said the community forest is in a better financial position this year with a good chance at ending the year with a small profit, despite a reduced harvest volume, ongoing legal expenses and new aerial photography.
“We are very optimistic,” he said.
Rich said that they are working with the village to rewrite the corporation’s articles of incorporation to reflect the changes that have occurred.
Outgoing Manager’s report: Is MCFC turning the corner?
Jeff McWilliams, the outgoing manager of MCFC said that it has been a long road but there have been positive changes.
“We have two more years of this pain to make up for the overcutting of the past,” he said. “This is a way to inch and scratch and try and maintain the cut as high as we can to ensure we can survive and ensure the mills and people who need work can survive.”
Runtz said he was impressed with the planning done by the outgoing management team Wes Bieber and Jeff McWilliams.
“When I took this job I didn’t know what to think,” said Runtz. “A lot of things that needed to be worked out have been worked out.”
McWilliams gave a detailed account of forest operations for 2016 as well as 2017 to date.
He said that the BKB Mill fire caused them to log in more profitable stands, which helped their bottom line.
Silviculture: The future
He said that in 2017 they planted 116,000 spruce seedlings, but they have been planning to change things up.
“We need to diversify our reforestation,” he said. “We have a plan to plant a good chunk of cedar in 2018. I am quite optimistic the new cedar will grow into sound solid trees.”
“I am hopeful that this will lead to some positive things and make more value for us in the future.”
Slash piles & Fire hazard
McWilliams said that government has asked them to deal with their large inventory of slash piles.
“We haven’t been doing any burning,” he said. “We have a lot of piles out there.”
He said it can be looked at as a hazard, but it also prevents replanting on areas covered by logs.
He said the community forest’s request for proposals for the piles on Block 28 didn’t lead to any acceptable bids.
In 2016, McWilliams’ team replaced the Forest Stewardship plan.
“You can actually see we have choices. We can make good predictions to the board of different harvesting systems,” he said.
McWilliams said that after the loss of BKB, there were questions about how much cedar was available.
“We didn’t know and we couldn’t meet the needs of the business community by offering concrete answers,” he said.
As a result the community forest has invested $31,000 in an aerial inventory to understand what is going to be available in the short term and long term.
He said that a total of $225,000 is needed to complete the inventory, but he believes it is possible to get a grant for half of it. The new analysis should be available by 2019.
Compliance and Enforcement
“There were no compliance and enforcement violations in 2016, as of 2017 there is nothing that I am aware of. However there is still an investigation on going from 2015 regarding Block 28,” reported McWilliams.
McWilliams said they planted trees in woodlots in the village lagoon cells, provided wood and material for the ancient cedar park infrastructure, and for the maintenance of the La Salle Lake and the Beaver.
General Business Practices
In 2016 the corporation continued phasing out the awarding of noncompetitive harvesting and small market logger agreements.
A small profit
McWilliams said that the community forest was lucky to log cedar stands that had a higher proportion of sound saw log wood.
He said usually they only find about 10 to 15% of saw logs in cedar stands.
“That was a big part of improving our finances to the point that I can say we are in a reasonably positive position.”
He said the community forest should be in a position to end the year with a small profit.
Grade 4 cedar exemption
If the community forest does not get the grade 4 exemption, their annual allowable cut will drastically drop until the next cut control period starts in 2020.
“We have been working pretty hard to make sure that is not going to happen,” said McWilliams.
Double dipping to survive
McWilliams said that it is possible the community forest will borrow cut from the next cut control period.
“I don’t think it is something that the board takes lightly,” he said. “Given the circumstances we are in I don’t see that there is much choice.”
“You could call it double dipping,” said McWilliams. “We need higher cuts than that to survive.”
Councillor Rick Thompson asked about the implications of not receiving the exemption.
McWilliams replied: “If we get it, we will have that much more volume to harvest over the next years.”
Thompson then asked if it would have an impact on availability of cedar for local manufacturers.
“In order to balance our books to be financially viable we will not be able to log as much cedar,” replied McWilliams.
Mayor Loranne Martin asked why the community forest was denied the exemption. Runtz said it was because the volume of cedar they were logging was so high and that the district manager needed to see a better rationale.