Thursday, April 26, 2007

BC Timber Sales Registers with BC Forest Safety Council

Safety is an ever present issue in the forest industry, and the new drive affecting many companies this year is WORKSAFE and the BC Forest Safety Council. Many companies, including licensees and consultants, have registered in the early part of this year. Contractors and consultants working for BCTS will need to register as well for contracts advertised after April 1, 2007.

Here is an April 24 announcement from the government:

VICTORIA – In its commitment to improve safety for forest workers, the BC Timber Sales program has registered with the BC Forest Safety Council, marking its intention to achieve SAFE Companies certification within six months.

“As the province’s largest public land manager, BC Timber Sales has made safety an overriding principle in its activities,” said Forests and Range Minister Rich Coleman. “This move towards certification is an important step in meeting the Province’s commitment to improve safety for all those who work in our forests.”

Under its new safety program, all BC Timber Sales fieldwork contracts advertised after April 1, 2007 require operators to be registered with the BC Forest Safety Council. All employers working on fieldwork contracts, such as road building or silviculture, must be registered.

In addition, all timber sales licences advertised by BCTS after April 1, 2007 require all persons or companies working on a timber sales licence to be registered in the SAFE Companies program, which signals its intent to be certified within six months.

“BC Timber Sales is promoting safe worksites and safety improvements,” said Coleman. “This step and other actions across the industry are helping create a culture of safety and helping ensure workers arrive home safely at the end of the day.”

The SAFE Companies program of the BC Forest Safety Council provides registrants with clear, practical standards so they can establish and maintain successful health and safety programs that fit their needs. To date, over 1,000 forest licensees in B.C. have voluntarily applied for SAFE Companies certification.

As part of the Province’s forest safety commitment, BC Timber Sales and the Ministry of Forests and Range continue to work closely with the BC Forest Safety Council and WorkSafeBC on a wide range of operational and policy issues aimed at improving worker safety.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

TimberWest selling some prime Vancouver Island land

Seems that land on Vancouver Island is becoming more valuable as real estate, than as managed forest land. If you are in the business of forest products, what does it say when you are willing to sell off over 10% of the land you use for growing trees?

TimberWest is the province's largest landowner, with 334,000 hectares, mostly on Vancouver Island. The company conducted a strategic review of its property in 2006 and identified 38,000 hectares of forest lands -- an area more than three times as large as the City of Vancouver -- that have greater value as real estate.

Full story here:

Friday, April 20, 2007

Sealers boats stranded in Atlantic

About 100 sealers boats have been locked up in ice flow jams in the Atlantic ocean. It could take up to a week to free the boats, while the sailors deal with food and fuel shortages. Many captains don't want to leave their vessels, even though they could be rescued. The heaving and moving ice has the potential to lift the boats out of the water, and even crush them. Icebreakers that were sent in to help free the boats have become trapped themselves. I could see this happening to maybe one or a few boats, but in this day and age with all the technology and reporting we have, it's amazing so many were affected.

Full article here:

Williams Lake Harvest increased due to Mountain Pine Beetle

from BC goverment news release, April 18, 2007:

Effective immediately, the allowable annual cut for the Williams Lake timber supply area will increase to 5.77 million cubic metres in response to the mountain pine beetle epidemic, chief forester Jim Snetsinger announced today.

The new allowable annual cut represents an increase of two million cubic metres per year from the previous allowable annual cut of 3,768,400 cubic metres.

“To reduce the impacts of the beetle and speed the recovery of new forests, the allowable annual cut should be increased,” said Snetsinger. “However, the majority of the increased and current harvesting must be directed towards the most heavily infested areas west of the Fraser River to preserve as much of the non-pine for future harvest as possible.”

In his determination, the chief forester emphasizes that harvesting must be focused in areas west of the Fraser River and in stands containing more than 70 per cent pine trees. The new harvest level also provides flexibility to address other forest health issues such as the spruce bark beetle.

The determination incorporates the requirements of existing land-use plans and forest practices legislation. Ministry of Forests and Range staff will continue to monitor the infestation and advise the chief forester if it subsides or expands beyond projected levels, in which case further examination of the timber supply may be required.

Under the timber supply review, the chief forester must determine how much wood can be harvested in each of the province’s 37 timber supply areas and 33 tree farm licences at least once every five years. The chief forester can determine new allowable annual cuts in response to abnormal situations, such as the mountain pine beetle epidemic, or postpone a decision for another five years if a harvest level is not expected to change significantly.


Comments: This is not a huge surprise, but it results in quite a significant increase in annual allowable cut (just over 50%). I think this will help address pine forests that would have died out and remained unproductive for a long time, or worse, would have been highly susceptible to wildfire. Important to note that this increased cut is supposed to focus on pine forest types, and that non-pine types should remain unharvested in the meantime.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

BC announces 11.5 Million for forestry marketing

The Premier of BC announced an $11.5 million injection into forestry marketing to ensure B.C. maintains a competitive edge.

Breakdown of how the dollars will be spent:

- $9.9 million for marketing, product development and research through the Forestry Innovation Investment fund.

- $1.59 million for 18 projects to address mountain pine beetle issues such as adapting pulp bleaching processes to use blue-stained wood chips, determining optimum processes for production of ethanol and other bio fuels, and investigating protective coatings for soy-oil treated siding and blue-stained lumber for home construction.

The Premier noted that recent trips to Japan, Korea and China have revealed specific markets for products such as flooring, doors, trusses, and panelling.


The way Asia is booming now I'm surprised that most of our wood products aren't heading that way already. I think this is a positive move by the government to help develop and expand trade with Asia.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

A look at Quesnel and the mountain pine beetle

The CBC recently did a piece on the town of Quesnel that discussed the current economy of the area, and touched on the expected future of the town after the mountain pine beetle infestation has passed.

I once did some work in Quesnel and was surprised that pine accounted for a high amount of the timber harvest in the area - something like 80% or 90%. When you consider that the MPB will kill virtually all of the pine, you have to wonder about the future of forestry in Quesnel. The focus of jobs will likely turn to silviculture and stand re-establishment, and away from mills and harvesting jobs.

Risk of landslides evacuates homes in Lower Mainland

We're not out of the woods yet in terms of this spring's slide events from high water levels and rapid snow melt.

In Mission, four homes had to be evacuated because of slide risk, and it turns out these homes were built on unstable land fill. A few weeks ago two other homes had to be demolished in the same area because they were left on the edge of a slide. I wonder if any other homes in the area will be affected by these events.

Mission officials said more families could soon be forced out of their homes.

Engineers will soon be assessing eight other houses in the neighbourhood that they believe may also be at risk.

Full story here:

Saturday, April 7, 2007

For all those who love to fish

I couldn't resist posting about this story about a 100 year old rockfish caught in Alaska. This rock fish might have been the oldest living creature in Alaska.

A commercial fishing boat hauled in what may have been one of the oldest creatures in Alaska — a giant rockfish estimated to be about a century old.

Check out the great photo in this news report.

Friday, April 6, 2007

New climate change report with more detail

A new climate change report was approved today by an international conference in Belgium attended by scientists and representatives from over 120 countries.

The report breaks down the climate change effects through regions of the world, and tells us what kind of events we could expect to experience. It also says there is still time to change this future if correct action is taken.

It was interesting to see that there was some government influence on toning down the report. Many scientists were upset by that, but in the end there was agreement on the final version.

Some major predictions:

The world faces increased hunger and water shortages in the poorest countries, massive floods and avalanches in Asia, and species extinction unless nations adapt to climate change and halt its progress.

The poorest of the poor in the world — and this includes poor people in prosperous societies — are going to be the worst hit.

Areas in drought will become even more dry, adding to the risks of hunger and disease. The world will face heightened threats of flooding, severe storms and the erosion of coastlines.

North America will experience more severe storms with human and economic loss, and cultural and social disruptions. It can expect more hurricanes, floods, droughts, heat waves and wildfires, it said. Coasts will be swamped by rising sea levels.

Africa will be hardest hit. By 2020, up to 250 million people are likely to be exposed to water shortages. In some countries, food production could fall by half, it said.

Full story here:

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Forestry fines increase in Alberta

It looks like governments are starting to get more serious about decreasing the risk of forest fires and environmental damage caused by human activities. Alberta has increased fines for open fires, collecting firewood, and improper atv use.

I wonder if these fines will really have an effect, most people won't even know about it until they are actually fined for the offense. And I'm not sure why firewood collecting isn't allowed. In BC, you can get a free firewood collecting permit, drive into the forest, and take anything by the roadside that is dead or on the ground. At least that is what I see people doing every fall.

Starting May 1st, fines for starting an open fire within a kilometre of forested public land in the province will rise to $500 from $50.

Anyone caught taking firewood will face a fine of $250, up from $75.

And if you operate a quad or snowmobile outside of designated areas expect to pony up $250, instead of the current $75.

Full story here:

Monday, April 2, 2007

Climate change effects on forest companies

It was reported today that Western Forest Products has been hit with production problems over the past year, related to weather events and likely even climate change. I can relate to these issues because I worked on the coast for WFP in the mid-90's.

Both logging and lumber production were off significantly for WFP. Winter storms caused delays in delivering timber by water, which created log shortages at mills. Summer 2006 was long and hot, and the threat of forest fires caused logging shutdowns.

Timber supply shortages have also caused companies to temporarily close their mills. Over the past winter, roads on coastal forestry roads have washed out, slopes became too saturated to log and tow boats have been slowed by bad weather. In Port Alberni, one of WFP's mills was forced to shut down when a creek burst its banks and flowed through the mill.

Are these signs of things to come? Long, hot summers shutting down logging operations. Wet and unpredictable winter weather causing further production delays. Warmer temperatures supporting insect populations. Storms damaging forests by windthrow and breakage. Logging on the coast is already an expensive undertaking, with air and water travel the only access in many areas, and many years of low pulp prices.