Forest management faces multiple challenges, crowd told

Forest management in B.C. is confronted with a triple challenge - a supply-side shortfall, increasing market demand and the likelihood that governments will continue to restrain spending.

Panellists who spoke on long-term forest management for multiple values as part of a silviculture workshop at TRU on Tuesday made it clear that the path ahead won't be an easy one.

"We've got a political bubble happening right now and we don't know what it's going to look like until it's done," said Rick Sommer, Thompson Rivers district manager with the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations. "I don't believe we're going to see a growing government, no matter which party is in power."

Increasing demand and diminishing supply are recipes for conflict, Sommer noted. However, he sees forest management returning to a multiple-use focus.

Archie MacDonald of the Council of Forest Industries said the demands on the land base are unprecedented, yet no one wants to see a return to the war in the woods.

"There are 200,000 active permits on the land base," he said. "I think that kind of sums it up - we need to start making some decisions," because not all demands can be accommodated.

"If we don't, we're simply out of business," he said. "We're price takers, we're not price setters."

Long-range management planning is crucial, he said, pointing to the need to update the province's forest inventory.

Logan Lake has one of 60 community forests either in existence or seeking approval in B.C. Manager Don Brown described it as good model for long-term forest management since it incorporates a range of values, including fire protection, employment and sustainability.

Bill Bourgeois of New Direction Forest Management said that communities need to have a greater say in management of the local resource.

"We have to build a community forest culture," he said.

He urged his peers to carefully frame questions for politicians at a public forum taking place today as part of the same gathering.

The Coastal and Southern Interior Silviculture Committees and the Canadian Institute of Forestry host the event from 1 to 3 p.m. at TRU's House of Learning. Vaughn Palmer, a political columnist, will direct questions at political candidates in advance of the spring election.

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