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Community forest logging stalled by paperwork

Ministry of Forest has to sign off on Forest Stewardship plan

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Any day now the Ministry of Forestry could issue logging permits for harvesting in the Cheakamus Community Forest (CCF).

The CCF is still waiting for the ministry to sign off on the Forest Stewardship plan, which needs to be done before the cutting permits are issued.

"We're hoping for this week," RMOW Environmental Stewardship Manager Heather Beresford said Tuesday morning.

She said that the province releases a "template" for the 11 different areas that need to be addressed, including soils, wildlife management and old growth forest management. The Forest Stewardship plan needs to be filled out in order to demonstrate to the forest service how a logging operation will manage these aspects of the forest and they have set up defaults that logging operators cannot go below.

Beresford said that with their Ecosystem Management Plan, the CCF is reaching for a higher standard than what the forest service requires but that has demanded more review from the ministry's staff.

"Of course we would like to have had it done but the Ministry of Forest has been very co-operative with us," she said.

Tom Cole, a registered professional forester for Richmond Plywood in charge of operations for the harvest, said the delays are not uncommon and they often amount to word choice when filling out the paperwork.

"In every case like this, it's foresters trying to be lawyers and we get all hung up on words we might use all the time between professionals but again, it's sometimes a matter of definition," he said while en route to the forest service office in Squamish to work through and finalize the permitting process.

He said four areas were supposed to be harvested this year but due to time constraints with the approaching snow season, Richmond Plywood is only likely to cut one of these areas and will proceed with the remaining three areas next year.

"You can cut, you can harvest and you can process but you probably can't haul as soon as the weather conditions limit the rubber tire traffic," he said.

A Squamish sawmill has committed to buying the lumber but only if the weather permits. Cole said that the trees will only be logged if there's a willing buyer, otherwise there's no point.

"You don't just harvest for the sake of harvesting," he said. "You do need to know where those logs are going before you put a sign to them, because you manufacture them to certain lengths and certain specifications."

Peter Ackhurst, spokesperson for the CCF, said the delays in harvesting might pose a financial problem for the CCF since it won't receive any revenues for 2010.

The CCF is bound by the forest service rules and must harvest 100,000 cubic metres in a five-year period. If it doesn't the tenure will revert back to the province.

The easiest way for the CCF would be to harvest 20,000 cubic meters per year - it's less work over a longer period and they would receive an annual revenue stream. But it could all be logged in one year if required.

All revenues from the timber will be split 60/40 between the CCF and Richmond Plywood. All profits the CCF earns will be put back into a "rainy day fund" for the forest and toward road, trail and other improvements for the CCF.

The Resort Municipality of Whistler, the Squamish Nation and the Lil'wat Nation signed the 25-year CCF tenure in April. It covers 30,000 hectares of forestland surrounding Whistler.

 

 

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