Forestry Ink: Eight companies control 50 per cent of B.C.’s public forest tenures

Columnist Jim Hilton looks at the apportionment of timber rights and Annual Allowable Cut

Jim Hilton

Observer Contributor

After reviewing the latest government report (APTRO43 2019) on the apportionment of timber rights, I calculated that eight corporations controlled approximately 32 million cubic meters (50 per cent) of the province’s 64 million Annual Allowable Cut (AAC). The report shows the following companies with their respective AACs. Canadian Forest Products Ltd. 10.8 million; West Fraser Mills Ltd. 5.8 million; Western Forest Products Inc. 5.8 million; Tolko Industries Ltd. 3.4 million; Interfor Corporation 3.3 million; Louisiana-Pacific Canada Ltd. 1.6 million; Conifex Mackenzie Forest Products Inc. 0.9 million and Mackenzie Fibre Corporation 0.8 million, for a total of 32.4 million cubic meters.

On the other end of the scale are woodlot licences and community forests, which combined have around three per cent of the provincial AAC (information not taken from the above report). The remaining 47 per cent of the volume is distributed among the 390-plus small- to medium-sized licensees.

Another complicating factor is the volume associated with the B.C. Timber Sales, which will be discussed in another article.

The history of the events leading up to this distribution of the public forest resource can be found in a number of reports on forest tenure reform, government reports and books like Three Men and a Forester by Ian Mahood and Ken Drushka.

British Columbia is home to one of the largest public forests on earth.

With a total land base of 95 million hectares (235 million acres), nearly two-thirds, some 60 million hectares, is forested. Only five per cent of the land base is privately owned, meaning that most of the forests belong to the people of British Columbia through the provincial government. Public ownership allows the B.C. government to manage the land base in keeping with the environmental, social and economic interests of British Columbians. Government also has a role in determining how and where harvesting takes place, and how much harvesting occurs. B.C.’s approach to forest management ensures that all forest values are considered and that there are opportunities for First Nations and public involvement.

Ongoing climate change, forest insect pests, along with some recent mega wildfires, has resulted in major reductions in timber resources that were being counted on for maintaining the provincial AAC.

Some companies have already made some adjustments, and more reductions are on the way.

Recent government reports indicate that major forest licensees have controlled the market for milling and forest tenure holdings for many years. As a result, smaller operators like communities and First Nations find it harder to compete. The government is therefore proposing some legislative changes, which will improve government’s ability to exert more control over the disposition of Crown tenures, as well as ensure that public interest is considered in the disposition of Forest Act agreements. The changes should also ensure that dispositions and changes of control do not result in further concentration within the forestry sector and that necessary information will be gathered from companies to inform policy and legislative changes to address emerging forestry issues.

For readers who want to read the detailed reports, the following links were provided by the public relations section of the Ministry of Forests Lands and Natural Resources Operations.

https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/industry/forestry/forest-tenures/forest-tenure-administration/apportionment-commitment-reports-aac

https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/farming-natural-resources-and-industry/forestry/timber-tenures/apportionment/apportionment_decision_package_guide.pdf

Jim Hilton is a professional agrologist and forester who has lived and worked in the Cariboo-Chilcotin for the past 40 years.

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