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Pemberton may be able to solve two logging problems in one deal

Province has reached deal to compensate company, now must decide which timber licences to include



Within the space of a month Pemberton council might be rid of the threat to logging behind the Signal Hill Elementary School forever and at the same time be granted, at least in good faith, their community forest.

This situation is a complex one and there is still a lot of negotiations to be completed but it’s possible because Weyerhaeuser has just been awarded $32.1 million in compensation by the province for the loss of 20 per cent of its logging rights, and the Pemberton council has already applied for a community forest.

The key to this ideal situation are the negotiations going on between Weyerhaeuser and the province. During the next two weeks these two groups will decide on which timber licences Weyerhaeuser will be compensated for.

Weyerhaeuser agreed not to log the area behind the Signal Hill elementary school last week but they still own the rights to log the timber and they will have to be compensated for that in some way.

But manager of Weyerhaeuser’s Stillwater division, Ray Balogh, said there was a possibility that the forest above the Signal Hill elementary school would be included in the 20 per cent loss of Weyerhaeuser’s logging rights that the province has compensated them for.

If this happens then the province will be looking for ways to allocate the trees and the obvious next step would be to hand over the rights to those trees to the Pemberton council to include in their community forest.

"I can’t speak for the province, but I’m not convinced they want to take (logging) areas and let them sit idle because they’re going to want them to generate (tax) revenue," said Balogh.

"So if they’re (the province) going to take the Pemberton licence back from us, they’re going to want to put it into a community forest.

"Because if not then it’s just going to be one more block of timber that they’re not going to get revenue from."

The province made a decision in March 2003 to reallocate 20 per cent of the logging land base in B.C. and then decided to take this land from 27 of the province’s biggest licence holders.

Communications director for the Ministry of Forests Don McDonald said that under the legislation the province "agreed that we would compensate those 27 licence holders and set a ceiling of $200 million for that compensation.

"Now we have reached an agreement with Weyerhaeuser and we have 26 more to do," said McDonald.

Balogh confirmed that Weyerhaeuser had been compensated for the logs but now his company and the province had to finalize exactly which logs would fall into this 20 per cent.

"Out of 20 per cent, 10 per cent was supposed to be used for small business… and the other 10 per cent is there to help First Nations and to create community forests," he said.

But Balogh conceded the negotiation process had been long and difficult and while it might be over in two weeks, he was glad he wasn’t directly involved.

Andre Germain, of the Squamish Forest District, agreed that the province could allow Weyerhaeuser to include the logs in Pemberton among the licences that the province has compensated the company for.

"There is a timber reallocation program where the companies are losing 20 per cent because the province is taking that volume back," said Germain.

"But this means that Weyerhaeuser could look at including Pemberton in that 20 per cent of their timber licence that they have to give up.

"But it’s all down to whether or not Victoria will agree… because that could also result in a community forest for Pemberton.

"There’s no guarantees at this stage but it’s conceivable."

Pemberton councillors were tight-lipped about the negotiations at their council meeting on Tuesday.

The council was due to discuss negotiations with Weyerhaeuser in the open meeting but Mayor Elinor Warner decided to move those discussions behind closed doors.

At the end of the meeting Warner simply said, "it’s just too early to tell what might happen."

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