Plans for Cheakamus Community Forest announced 

15,000 cubic metres of old-growth harvesting slated for 2015

click to enlarge PHOTO BY DAN FALLOON - Explaining plans Richmond Plywood's registered professional forester Tom Cole speaks about harvesting plans for the Cheakamus Community Forest at a meeting at the Whistler Public Library on Feb. 5.
  • Photo by Dan Falloon
  • Explaining plans Richmond Plywood's registered professional forester Tom Cole speaks about harvesting plans for the Cheakamus Community Forest at a meeting at the Whistler Public Library on Feb. 5.

Though less old-growth harvesting of the Cheakamus Community Forest (CCF) is planned in 2015, Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden is still looking to halt the practice entirely.

"Unfortunately, as long as our (Annual Allowable Cut) is at the 20,000 cubic metre mark, we have no choice but to go into some old growth to make up that target," she said.

Wilhelm-Morden is working to find ways to reduce the target and is developing a plan to present to the ministry. She said the plan itself, wildfire management and recreational opportunities will influence how to approach the ministry.

"There are conversations that we can have with the ministry at the appropriate time," said Wilhelm-Morden.

"Right now, we are working on a multi-year harvesting plan so that we have a better idea of what those requirements are in the three to five year range.

"We've been working on that for a couple of years and we're probably six to nine months away from having that plan."

RMOW environmental stewardship manager Heather Beresford explained the model originally negotiated with the province was a compromise where the province recognized Whistler is a tourism hotbed while maintaining that logging is key across the province.

"Where we got to was an agreement recognizing that Whistler was a unique situation compared to other towns," Beresford said. "We are so focused on tourism that we developed the Ecosystem Based Management plan that allows us to have a reduced annual allowable cut.

"It's about half of what (would be cut) if it were a private company doing business-as-usual logging."

The non-profit Cheakamus Community Forest Society, which counts the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) and the Squamish and Lil'wat First Nations as equal partners, oversees the management of the forest. Worker-owned Richmond Plywood has a 25-year contract to harvest the forest, which is situated on about 33,000 hectares, of which about 15,000 hectares are protected from commercial forestation.

At an open house at the Whistler Public Library on Feb. 5, CCF operations manager and Richmond Plywood registered professional forester Tom Cole revealed a plan to harvest 21,260 cubic metres of lumber in 2015. Last year, 21,872.4 cubic metres of lumber was harvested though nearly 27,700 was earmarked.

Of this year's harvest, 15,000 cubic metres of the harvest is considered to be from old-growth sources, defined by the provincial Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations as being older than 250 years in coastal forests. For forests in the Interior, for example, the benchmark drops to 120 years.

Nearly 19,000 cubic metres of old-growth harvesting was planned in 2014, though 14,194.1 was the eventual old-growth harvest, making up about 65 per cent of the total cut. The plan is for old-growth harvesting to make up just over 70 per cent of this year's cut, approximately equal to what was initially planned in 2014.

Cole noted though the annual allowable cut is 20,000 cubic metres, the number is a five-year average. The first five-year cycle was from 2010-14, meaning a new one kicks off this year.

"Being slightly over in one year isn't an issue," Cole said. "In the five years, you balance out.

"You usually try to target between 90 and 100 per cent. If you go over, there's no penalty up to 110 per cent, so we can log 110,000 (cubic metres over five years) with no penalty, but that (extra) 10,000 gets transferred to the next few years, so our (annual allowable) cut would be reduced to about 18,000 for the next few years."

Wilhelm-Morden, a longtime opponent of old-growth harvesting, explained the need to cut into the old growth will diminish over time, but she hopes to stem that requirement more quickly.

"The longer that we're progressing with the community forest, the sooner we will be able to stop having to meet our annual allowable cut by logging old growth," Wilhelm-Morden said. "Our second growth is coming along and we will be able to move into second growth rather than old growth not in the near future, but in the medium term."

The scaling back of the planned old-growth harvest is in response to market demands for trees like Douglas fir that aren't considered to be old growth here. Douglas fir made up 18 per cent of last year's harvest, a number Cole expects will jump to about 29 per cent this year.

"We're just trying to balance what I see in upcoming markets," he said.

Cole explained he also attempts to approach the cuts as sustainably as possible, reasoning, for example, that after they "hit pretty hard" in areas of the Upper Callaghan, the plan is to focus on other areas for the next four to five years.

Full plans for 2015 are available at www.cheakamuscommunityforest.com.

Wilhelm-Morden added that plans for forest managers to sell carbon credits are moving forward and she is anticipating news from the province shortly.

"We expect those approvals will happen literally anytime," she said.

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