The BC government has announced a five-year 185-million program to begin addressing the reforestation backlog created by the mountain pine beetle disaster, recent forest fires, and years of low public forestry funding. The dollars are aimed at brushing impeded stands, reforesting the mountain and pine beetle backlog, and replanting the old pre-1987 NSR.
Forests For Tomorrow – The New Approach To Addressing the Growing NSR
Publicly owned forest and range resources underpin much of BC’s environmental, social, and economic well-being. Goal 1 of the MOF Service plan is to ensure sustainable use of those resources. Provincially what is arguably the Ministry’s most important key outcome indicator, namely the ratio of area reforested to area denuded has been in decline. A ratio of “1” indicates that, overall, the Province is reforesting land at the same rate that forest cover is removed by harvesting or natural disturbance. A ratio of less that “1” indicates that the Province is depleting its forest resource base.
To avoid erratic changes in the ratio from year to year, this key outcome indicator is based on a rolling five year average. The current ratio is 0.82, indicating that significantly less area is being reforested than is being denuded. Without new and sustained funding, the ratio will continue to decline. The ministry is faced with the following significant reforestation pressures.
Un-salvaged Fire-Killed and Mountain Pine Beetle-Killed Areas.
Wildfires burned more than 488,000 ha in 2003 and 2004. The MPB epidemic exists in varying intensities over at least 7.2 million ha and is still expanding. Despite intensive salvage operations, a significant portion of those areas will not be logged. Without a new program of reforestation, those areas will be left to regenerate naturally. This could take twenty years of longer, and is certain to leave the sites much less productive in the long term than if they were reforested on a managed stand basis.
In 2005/06 the Ministry will begin quantifying the extent of this unprecedented major problem through a new program name called Forest for Tomorrow. The ministry will also pursue the possibility of a federal/provincial rehabilitation program to mitigate the economic and social damage accruing from the loss of productive forest sites.
Backlog Reforestation & Current Fire & Pest
Since Forest Renewal BC was eliminated in March 2002, minimal funding has been allocated to reforesting and tending areas logged or naturally disturbed prior to 1987 and on un-salvaged natural disturbances post 1987. Many backlog and current fire & pest areas are not satisfactorily restocked, or are stocked with young stands that warrant tending and for which the government is responsible. Although licensees are entitled to use their Land Base Investment Program (FIA) to treat such areas, very little has been spent in this activity area.
Forests for Tomorrow
Forests for Tomorrow aims to improve long term timber supply through the re-establishment of forests that would otherwise remain non or under-productive. A budget of $182.2 M over 5 Years has been approved for planning, payment of FRPA section 108 claims, establishment of new plantations on areas affected by the MPB and recent wildfires, and establishment and maintenance of backlog and current fire & pest areas and potentially other areas that would otherwise not be reforested.
The program will provide for up-front planning through surveys, information updates and revised forest management unit silviculture strategies for areas most impacted by the MPB and wildfires. This program does not fund incremental silviculture treatments such as juvenile spacing, fertilization and pruning that would reduce mid-term harvest level impacts; however; the planning undertaken will provide valuable information to scope and prioritize these activities for other current or future programs and funding sources. The initial program up front planning work and surveys will identify the highest priority areas for strategically prioritized on the ground treatments focused on a limited number of specific areas.