18 May 2018
Volume 18 Issue 7

Warning: Some facts contained in this publication may appear unexpectedly.

BC Flood and Fire Review Looks at Last Year’s Emergencies From Community Perspective

Will we see a similar map for this year? Are we in a new emerging age of natural hazard threats?

Since 2001 there have been three major provincial reviews on wildfire in B.C., two driven by disastrous wildfire seasons. With last week’s release of the BC Flood and Fire Review Report the total number of recommendations these reviews have produced is more than 200. The skeptical view of this two-decade’s accumulation of advice is that it hasn’t changed things much. A more generous outlook suggests these three reviews represent an evolving understanding of the threat and consequences of wildfire and climate change. The 2001 Auditor General report on interface fire risks laid out the four elements of emergency management: response; prevention; preparedness; and recovery. It found major deficiencies in the last three elements. Gary Filmon’s Firestorm 2003 Provincial Review recognized and built on the AG’s principal findings adding perspectives from fire ecology on fuels and ecosystem management. The Flood and Fire Review expands on all the previous themes, focusing on Filmon’s in particular, while framing these recent recommendations on how communities actually experienced last summer’s emergency. That perspective creates a sense of urgency as fires (and floods) and their consequences are seen hitting home: figuratively and literally. In total we now have a well-rounded set of recommendations for our governments to act on. That, at least, is the non-skeptical, optimist view.

Of the Flood and Fire Review’s 108 recommendations a number of them reflected input from the WFCA regarding qualifying and procuring contract suppression services and forest restoration. Those include increased use of prescribed burning, BC-First hiring of in-province contract suppression crews, the adoption of a preferred contractor tendering system and wider availability of fire suppression training. Bringing these high-level recommendations into actual practice will be one of the WFCA’s strategic priorities this year.

Logging Contractor Sustainability Review Noted by Forestry/Silviculture Contracting Sector

Yesterday Forest Minister Doug Donaldson released thirteen proposals summarizing some of the findings of the Logging Contractor Sustainability Review started early last year by our provincial government. The third-party review, conducted by George Abbott, was described as intending to “improve the overall competitiveness of both logging contractors and licensees.” As stated that purpose may be more diplomatic than accurate. From the loggers’ perspective—they were the one’s who wanted the review done—it’s about their struggle to stay in business; not so much about licensee competitiveness. In fact, as the loggers have said, licensee competiveness, and the profits that go with that, is coming at the expense of contractors. It was that imbalance they wanted government to help them address. At this stage in the process it looks like the loggers have succeeded in getting many of their key points across as a basis for the next round of facilitation between them and licensees.

What’s interesting about this process to silviculture contractors, seedling nurseries and forestry consultants is that we do a lot of work for the same group of licensee clients. And few of our contractors have proven immune to the same market pressures that have put loggers in such desperate shape. Albeit contracting costs in forestry are arrived at differently than logging costs. But the downward hand on the market for forestry and silviculture services has certainly been felt over the last decades of licensee corporatization, consolidation and cost-cutting. In ongoing good relations between the WFCA and the major logging contracting associations we share how much we have in common working for the same group of often large corporate clients. To read more about the proposals click here.

Forest Service Providers Compensation Fund
Gets Government Grant

Forest Minister Doug Donaldson added $500,000 to the Forest Service Providers Compensation Fund in an announcement at the Interior Logging Association annual conference in Kamloops earlier this month. The one-time government grant will be split evenly between the logging and harvesting general fund and the silviculture sector sub account. That sub account, which serves silviculture contractors, seedling nurseries and consulting foresters under contract to forest license holders, now stands at over $750,000 after our previous government seeded it with $500,000 two years ago. The general fund followed the passing of the 2012 Forest Service Providers Protection Act, which intends to provide relief to contractors left not paid for contract forestry work because their license-holder client became insolvent. Originally the Regulation excluded silviculture service providers even though silviculture contractors, consultants and nurseries had experienced over the years losses due to unpaid bills from failed license holders. The WFCA successfully lobbied for changes to Regulation through Cabinet leading to the 2016 creation of the sub account and more business certainty for the silviculture service provider sector.

Today’s Consulting Foresters Content on the Job According to Poll: Less Clear About Tomorrow.

Remuneration is generally OK among all forest professionals. But what more will it take to recruit and retain more workers, especially women, in the future?

The majority of forest professionals working as independent consultants today seem happy in their work according to a recent survey by the Association of BC Forest Professionals and the WFCA. Of the 1,617 forest professionals who responded to the salary and work satisfaction survey completed earlier this year 443 identified as consultants. The survey shows an approximate three-way split between licensees, government and consultants as to just where professional foresters are working in B.C. Consultants and their forest professional employees report that in the majority they are not looking for other work (70%), they are happy with their current earnings (64%), they feel fairly compensated for the work done (66%) and most of them are happy with work-life balance (61%).

But in the midst of this general satisfaction there are some statistical cross-currents. The majority of respondents left a blank on questions about their plans to stay in the forest industry and the consulting sector. Of those who did answer it was almost an even split between yes/no on staying in the industry and 68% uncertain about staying in the consultant sector. Is everyone actually this non-committal? Not helping is the low number of women attracted to the sector and the demographic bulge of possible retirements pending with more than a third of the respondents over fifty years old. This is the second report in over decade so we have to be careful about what we induce from the data. But the independent consulting sector should be working at strategies around recruiting and retaining competent staff as a challenge now and looking to the future. For the complete analysis of the report click here.