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FOREST INK: More common sense needed on cull pile use

The proper use of cull piles will continue to be an issue
Jim Hilton pens a column on forestry each week for the Williams Lake Tribune and Quesnel Observer. (File photo)

A friend provided me with a link to a 2019 story in the Kamloops This Week. Author Sean Brady describes how a man’s ‘retirement’ fund was tied up in massive wood seizure. For 15 years, Rick Farr has been cleaning out Crown land of felled trees and leftover logging piles and selling the firewood to Kamloops-area customers — until the Ministry of Forests stepped in and seized his winter supply.

He said he had been storing and seasoning the seized wood for about two years and had amassed well over 500 cords, which he said would have sold for more than $100,000. “That was my retirement,” he said.

Since the story was over three years old I thought I should make a few calls to see if some sort of arrangement had been made about what was done with the massive pile of firewood. I soon realized that this story was more complicated than I thought, there are always two sides to any story but getting information from the government can be a lengthy process.

Since I am not an investigative reporter and do not have the resources or inclination to follow up on a story like this I will only provide some general comments on this issue. I have personal experience with trying to get firewood from cull piles and it has often not been as positive as I thought it would be.

For twenty plus years firewood was my main heating source alone with using it in my shop and cabin in addition to providing some for family members. As I got older the romance of the fall gathering of firewood was gone and one of the main reasons for installing a geothermal furnace. Anyone considering processing firewood for sale would be well advised to talk to someone in the business and also contact your local forestry representative to see what local options are available along with any permits that may be required.

I have heard of positive experiences with some rural communities supplying their members with firewood when they are in a community forest. With the support of community members wanting firewood, dry reject logs were set aside on the landing or delivered to places more convenient for members to process them. As always there are issues about users policing themselves around not taking more than their share and it is not intended for someone wanting to sell it outside of the community.

In the large scheme of things, firewood use (while important to many rural communities) will likely remain small relative to lumber, chips and wood pellets but the proper use of cull piles will continue to be an issue especially with climate change concerns, carbon sequestration and carbon offsets. As always there has to be a certain amount of the residual logging material left on site for long-term nutrient cycling and no doubt the proper management of cull piles will remain an ongoing debate.

As markets change for things like branch wood chips, biochar and firewood more sorting of residual logging material on the landing will need to take place. It is my hope that the government will be flexible enough to develop policies to keep up with the ever-changing markets and technologies which will allow jobs to be created rather than a resource to go up in smoke.

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