Forester urges patience in beetle battle

It makes sense not to move too quickly to rehabilitate mountain pine beetle-killed forests, giving time for developing industries to utilize the dead timber to produce wood pellets, bio-energy and oriented strand board, B.C. chief forester Jim Snetsinger cautioned Friday. Rehabilitation differs from logging forests for commercial use.

The beetle-killed forests could, for example, be felled and burned and then replanted. The timber in rehabilitation is not usually used to produce forest products.

Snetsinger was told Friday at the Western Silvicultural Contractors’ Association annual convention that quicker action was needed on rehabilitating pine beetle-killed forests.

“I understand your impatience, but I guess the sign I see is we are on the cusp of these other industries being able to utilize this fibre,” he told the audience on the final day of the three-day convention at the Coast Inn of the North. “So, I think we need to hang tough a little bit before we start to pull the levers in a big way on rehabilitation.”

One silviculture contractor argued it made sense to both log lodgepole pine from the most productive sites first, and at the same time mow down the marginal stands and get rid of them. The idea is that it allows the stands to be replanted more quickly.

Snetsinger noted that he believed the most productive sites were being logged and replanted already.

Another contractor said the province should focus on the future timber supply drop. He said money should be spent on timber stands other than pine — including spruce in the Bowron region east of Prince George — to get the timber ready to fill the timber supply gap.

The timber supply drop has been estimated as high as 40 per cent in some areas of North Central B.C. as a result of the beetle epidemic.

Snetsinger said the province is looking at some of those strategies already, including in the Bowron, a 60,000 hectare area that was virtually clearcut in the 80s as a result of spruce beetle kill-off.

He said the productivity of the Bowron area may have been underestimated, and the spruce could be ready to harvest in the next 45 to 55 years.

Snetsinger said the province is looking at how to use second-growth timber in other areas as well, and how other non-pine stands in areas north and west of Prince George can also be used. It might mean hauling timber longer distances, he said.

New engineered wood products, as well as intensive silviculture, will also likely play a role in mitigating the timber supply drop, added Snetsinger.

He warned though that the silviculture investment must be done carefully, as it turned out that the lodgepole pine stands most susceptible to the beetle have turned out to be those that were spaced and pruned.

Snetsinger was also asked whether he supported a proposal by veteran forest industry leader Mike Apsey that a permanent forest commission be set up to tackle the increasing changes in B.C.’s forests. The province has a history of holding independent commissions to set the direction for the forest sector. The last major commission report was produced in 1991.

© 2007 Prince George Citizen

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