A report released on Dec. 3, 2014 by the Forest Practices Board concludes that Burns Lake Specialty Wood complied with most requirements of the Forest and Range Practices Act, but failed to comply with Wildfire Act requirements to assess and reduce fire hazards after logging.
The audit examined forest planning and practices carried out between September 2011 and October 2013, near Burns Lake. The company harvested 90,000 cubic metres of timber from eight cutblocks.
Problems found included planting the incorrect type of tree seedlings in some locations, failing to carry out commitments to prevent the spread of invasive plants, and failing to assess and remove slash and debris that pose fire hazards.
Tim Ryan, chair of Forest Practices Board, said that what’s concerning to the board is that the company did not meet its obligations to assess and reduce fire hazards under the Wildfire Act.
“Combine that with the fact they are operating in forests heavily damaged by mountain pine beetle, and the increased fire risk that resulted is a significant problem.”
“All forest licence holders have obligations to comply with provincial forestry legislation. There are training materials and guidance documents readily available to assist them with understanding the obligations that come with the right to harvest trees on public land,” Ryan added.
Burns Lake Native Development Corporation owns Burns Lake Specialty Wood as well as Burns Lake Native Logging. According to Wes Böhmer, manager of Burns Lake Native Logging, the main problem that the auditors found in Burns Lake Specialty Wood was that the company “had not adequately filled out the paperwork required to determine the fire risk.”
“According to the auditor, the form that the licensee [Burns Lake Specialty Wood] filled out did not properly account for the decks of pulp wood that remained on site,” said Böhmer. “The goal of the licensee was to utilize logs and debris that could not be milled by conventional facilities. The licensee sold whole logs and chipped piles to Pinnacle Pellet. The licensee opted to sell the fibre instead of burning it on site. This is better for air quality and it is better for the province of B.C. as stumpage was paid on all hauled fibre.”
Böhmer said utilizing logs that cannot be made into boards has been the intent of the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations for a number of years.
“The forest industry needs to utilize every bit of fibre within a cutblock. The mountain pine beetle infestation has seriously impacted B.C.’s markets, building markets, investing in equipment and people. There are growing pains, and in this case, a form that was filled out by the licensee did not rank the fire risk to the same degree as the Forest Practices Board auditor,” he said.
Böhmer continued to say that the licensee had support from the district forestry office.
“They [district forestry office] were aware of the intent of the licensee and encourage all licensees in the district to do the same,” he said.
“As for the invasive plants, this is a requirement to grass seed,” he continued. “The forest stewardship plan states that exposed mineral soil must be seeded within one year of forest operations being completed. This is an interpretation difference between the board and the licensee. The board says it should have been completed within one year of the building of the road. The licensee completed grass seeding within one year of hauling because it is difficult to seed when there is active chipping and hauling and the roadside is covered by decked timber.”
Böhmer also questioned the lack of “positives” in the report.
“Were streams managed properly? Yes. Was the soil protected? Yes. Were the blocks reforested? Yes. Were wildlife habitat requirements met? Yes. This license is a non-renewable forest license and the licensee has never held a forest license before,” he said.
“The licensee has a clean harvesting record, a clean development record, and for a first time licensee, the biggest concern by the auditors was a fire risk assessment form being inadequately filled out.”
The Forest Practices Board acknowledges that the company has abated the fire hazards on most of the cutblocks since the audit and is requesting that they report to the board on the completion of the remainder of the abatement obligations by the end of January 2015.
The Forest Practices Board is B.C.’s independent watchdog for sound forest and range practices, reporting its findings and recommendations directly to the public and government. The board audits forest and range practices on public lands and appropriateness of government enforcement. It can also make recommendations for improvement to practices and legislation.