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Western Forestry Contractors’ Association
Rumour Mill RoundUpDate
17 February 2023
Volume 23 Issue 2

Warning: No thought balloons or unidentified factual objects were shot down in the production of this publication.

This February, So Far, Full of Forest Stewardship Portents and Prodigies

The WFCA 2023 Conference program looked at the 15 climate change risk events we face, as described by our BC Climate Change Secretariat, and what we can do to reduce these hazards in our workplaces and on our landscapes.

So far, February has been an interesting month for forestry. Recent forums and announcements have provided more clarity and evidence for the transformation our government intends to forest policy and practice in British Columbia. Our WFCA conference at the beginning of the month anticipated some of this by focusing in part on the threats and opportunities we face in adapting to climate change and reducing the risk of natural disasters. Days after that the joined-at-the-hip Ministry of Forests and Ministry of Water, Land and Resource Stewardship held a multi sectoral forum on the implementation of the Old Growth Strategy Review (OGSR) recommendations.

Two days were spent reviewing and discussing the paradigm shift implied in the pending Declaration on Ecosystem Health and Biodiversity and the forest stewardship transformation necessary to support it. True to his promise to move the OGSR recommendations along more quickly Premier Eby this week announced $25 million in funding to increase the number of regional forest landscape planning tables in the province. As likely has been the case with the four pilots at work now, the principle currency of these kinds of exercises is trust, something that takes time to build. It’s wise then to fund more pilots since they will need time now to become effective mechanisms for the far-reaching reforms intended in the ongoing changes to the Forest and Range Practices Act. On that account our government also confirmed its intention to elide from Regulation the requirement that managing for non-timber values be done “without unduly reducing the supply of timber.” Admittedly, prioritizing ecosystem health needs more definition in terms of its scope and nature. But that appears to be the direction we are headed.

Latest Forecasts for Seedling Demand Released by MoF

This nine-year table shows sowing requests. Those numbers will be planted in the subsequent year i.e. the seedlings sown in 2022 will be planted this year.

What’s notable in this table is the unknown numbers of possible Section 108, trees needed to be grown and planted for licensee plantations lost to the recent wildfires. That’s their business under the current regime, so it is difficult to get estimates. So also, are any licensee plantation losses to drought. Nevertheless, it does appear the demand side for future planting is declining. To keep the market and the sector stable we could use another 20 to 30 million seedlings annually back in the market.

2022 Low Bid Auction Tree Planting Tenders Defy Inflation

The invisible hand of the market might be scratching its invisible head looking at the recent bidding trends on low-bid auction tree planting tenders as collected and analyzed by Scooter Clark http://replant.ca/. With inflation running at ~6%, the average winning price is running in the other direction. If we compare the average of all the bids tendered, what we might call the wisdom-of-the-crowd bid, then bidders on average are taking inflation into account. They’re just not winning the bids. But before we conclude all the winning bids are what we might call the madness-of-the-crowd bids, as in cryptocurrency crashes, these trees represent only about 20% of the total market. So, the low bidding here may be buffered by prices negotiated, or arrived at by selected tendering, in the other 80% of the market, which is mostly licensees.

From what we have heard most of these prices better reflect inflation and other costs. For businesses to survive we would have to conclude they have work in both markets or stay out of the low bid tournament completely. One explanation: bidders use their critical-thinking frontal lobes for negotiating prices and their lower impulsive neural networks for winning low bids. We apologize for any low bidders or neuroscientists—Daniel Kahneman et al https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daniel_Kahneman. —who we may have offended with this summary.