It seems like Quesnel has been a forest industry powerhouse forever.
Back in the day, forest harvesting and fibre processing was booming and there were a lot of people pulling in good paycheques. The surrounding forests were buzzing with large logging shows where tall, healthy trees were knocked down, skidded to a landing and trucked into the mills in Quesnel.
Those were the good old days when generations of families worked in the forest industry doing a variety of jobs. The scenario was very much the same in communities up and down Highway 97.
Buyers wanted that good lumber produced in the Interior and the population grew because folks wanted a piece of the pie. With the jobs came the need for schools, churches, hospitals and the service industry.
It’s interesting that most, if not all, the Highway 97 forestry communities started with bush mills.
Eventually, the growing market for lumber demanded large mills built in communities close to the transportation corridors.
Then “forestry” changed, and there were rules and regulations and tenure. The foresters got involved in planning, management of forested land, rehabilitation and reforestation. They learned Mother Nature’s cycles and adopted her greatest tool – fire. When Mother Nature wanted to rehabilitate and regenerate a pine forest, she started a fire, cleansed and created nutrients of the forest floor and reseeded.
Foresters adopted that tool and used it for rehabilitation and regeneration – it worked well.
But a new generation of knowledge came along and that practice went by the wayside. Then a voracious little bug – mountain pine beetle – virtually chewed its way through British Columbia and headed for greener wood over the Rockies.
While dead/dry pine is still being harvested and used in the lumber mill mix, its economic viability is coming to an end.
We just went through the wildfire season of 2017 and it was devastating for everyone, including the forest extraction and processing industry, which lost huge inventories to the raging fires.
The Quesnel fire zone doesn’t have the clumps of green timber mixed with the charred trees like Williams Lake and 100 Mile House, where the fires got close to structures and were fought vigorously.
Now, we have to look at ground fuel mitigation to supply timber to the mills and protect our wild land/urban interface, which, in turn, will protect our communities from the next wildfire season, as Mayor Bob Simpson suggested recently.
The former Cariboo Regional District chair recently suggested we should return to burning the ground fuel on reforestation sites before planting.
Forest Practices Board chair Tim Ryan says his board will be doing a special report on best practices on how to reforest, rehabilitate and what to plant given climate change.
So, the forest industry is still in play, but we have to adopt new practices.
Ken Alexander, Quesnel Cariboo Observer