Western Silvicultural Contractors’ Association Rumour Mill RoundUpDate Volume 16, Issue 17

September 30, 2016
Volume 16, Issue 16

Warning: No bots, web crawlers, spiders or other forms of artificial intelligence have been used in the painstakingly human checking of the facts contained in this edition.

Will We See 300-Million Seedlings Planted Per Year in the Furture?

We haven’t seen anything like the recently announced commitments to publically-funded forestry since the 80s and 90s. Back then it was the two Forest Resource Development Agreements (FRDA) that led a total $500 million joint Federal-Provincial eight-year assault on B.C.s reforestation backlog and underperforming stands—the so called “silviculture slums” of the day as some politicians referred to them. Now in 2016 our government’s target is post mountain pine beetle restoration and forest carbon sequestration. These goals appear at least as ambitious as the FRDAs, if not more so. That would be the general conclusion among contractors who attended this week’s WSCA Annual Business Summit. At that workshop government representatives outlined the strategic frameworks and goals of the Forests For Tomorrow program, the Forest Enhancement Society of BC (FESBC) and the Forest Carbon Initiative (FCI). All three programs represent separate and additional objectives including: FCI’s restoration and enhancement of 300,000 hectares of forests over five years (forestry accounts for half of our government’s GHG reduction commitments); FFT’s ongoing MPB rehabilitation program intending to treat 300,000 hectares by 2024, and the FESBC’s ambitions to use its start-up funding of $85-million over three years to do restoration and fire mitigation. These promises and projections have arrived when the reforestation sector was expecting to see provincial sowing requests and seedling planting demands shrink in the near future. In fact it was supposed to be happening already. Instead annual planting has held steady over the last while above 250-million seedlings; kept there by Chinese demand for our lumber and the recovery from last decade’s economic disaster. But the AAC will continue to fall. The Softwood Lumber Agreement will soon have effect. And at some point we may cross a threshold where the allocated wood becomes economically inaccessible. Notwithstanding these uncertainties the general consensus is that reforestation levels may drop in the short term to around 225 million. After that, as the new programs take root, sowing requests will rise. And that’s where today’s informed speculation puts the future provincial planting program demand in the range of historical highs of around 300-million seedlings. Along with that will go attendant activities in stand-tending and fuels management. It may be too soon to predict salad days for the silviculture sector. But we can see a significant pivot in the sector’s prospects.

No, No One is Unionizing Contract Wildfire Fighters

2016 will show around 100,000 hectares burned. Note the pairing of bad years.
2016 will show around 100,000 hectares burned. Note the pairing of bad years.

Nothing better than a well-formed rumour to report. This one comes from our Premier’s announcement at the UBCM convention this week that seasonal wildfire fighters would be more readily available for BCGEU benefits. The confusion was around which seasonal wildfire fighters. Now as it has become clear this provision is for Wildfire Services Branch’s own seasonal crews. Fears of government world domination of the contract wildfire suppression service providing community are unfounded. But we should mention them. This has not been a great year for wildfire contractors. Just over 100,000 hectares burned this year; most of it in early spring and in the north east. Interestingly, there is a pattern emerging in severe wildfire years: the so called ‘terrible twos.” As the above graph suggests, and if the pattern holds, contractors may be sitting out another round or two. This of course is an almost impossible scenario for a viable business strategy for contractors. But as the graph also shows things are getting progressively worse: overall demand will grow as climate change kicks in. Figuring out a competitive system that provides a little more certainty for contractors and a reliably competent set of service providers for government is very much on people’s minds these days given where we are headed in wildfire behaviour. Providing some guaranteed work for select contractors was piloted this year. But a larger program and some deeper thinking on this intractable problem will be needed before the next possible pair of bad years.

Forest Without Boarders is Looking for Projects

Silviculture workers do get around. In particular they get around the planet and have connections through the expanded planting community. Knowing this, Forests without Borders, a Canadian charity that sponsors reforestation and community projects around the world, is looking for our help. The BC Caucus of FWB is looking to identify new projects in developing countries. The goal is to find people with contacts who would like to do small tree planting projects tied to a local community. Those projects, besides the actual planting, can involve funding seedling nurseries and water wells associated with reforestation. If you are interested in helping suggest projects or know people who might know please get in touch Peter Ackhurst (packhurst@telus.net) or Bill Dumont (wedumont@hotmail.com). The FWB website is www.fwb-fsf.org. Become a friend of FWB with a donation of $25 or more.

Planting site preparation crew in Madagascar.
Planting site preparation crew in Madagascar.
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