forest renew 

British Columbia’s forest industry is undergoing the most substantive change since the first logger’s saw tasted bark more than 100 years ago. The Annual Allowable Cut in the Soo Timber Supply Area has been cut back by 13 per cent this year following an 18 per cent reduction three years ago. Timber harvest rates in the Soo TSA still remain above the level that B.C.’s Chief Forester has deemed sustainable and Paul Kuster, district manager of the Squamish Forest District, says the harvest level is going to be pared again to bring the AAC in line with the sustainable level. While NDP cabinet members are trooping around the province announcing new parks and protected areas and forest workers are anxiously awaiting a report on harvest levels allowed in Spotted Owl Conservation Areas, regulations in the new Forest Practices Code are further reducing the amount of land base in the working forest. What does this all mean? Some, like Cheryle Bass of the Soo Coalition for Sustainable Forests, say it is a hodge-podge of rules, laws and protectionism that is threatening the way of life for forest industry workers in the Sea to Sky Corridor. Others such as Joe Foy of the Western Canada Wilderness Committee, say it is a step in the right direction, but the government must keep marching toward the further protection of B.C.’s remaining low elevation forests. Bass says forestry jobs are being lost, while Foy says those jobs are going down the drain because of decades of over-harvesting. Enter Forest Renewal B.C., the government’s plan to right past wrongs through poor logging practices and to keep forestry workers at work in the bush. Slick TV ads have appeared lauding the scope, justice and environmental benevolence of the Forest Renewal Plan, but Bass says the Soo Coalition thinks the TV ads do little to ease the anxiety felt within the forest industry. "The truth of the matter is the ads are nothing more than propaganda because we are not seeing a whole lot of jobs coming out of his job-saving plan," Bass says. Forest Renewal B.C. is broken down into two parts according to Kuster. A vast majority of the funding will go to Watershed Restoration while other cash will be directed to incremental silviculture. To kick-start the program, the provincial government threw $6 million into Forest Renewal B.C. Just over $1.5 million went to watershed restoration projects in the Squamish Forest District. According to Kuster, the application process is "proponent based" so the local forest service office has been granting funding to restoration ideas generated by forestry companies. Although most of the funding has been directed at deactivating old logging roads, Kuster says the scope of the Forest Renewal projects will expand as the forest industry realizes they can tap into the funds through some innovative projects. "There are so many different things that could be thought about and applied for under this plan," Kuster says. "The plan is so new everybody is still feeling it out, from the licensees to our staff here." Bass says the only number of jobs that seem to be increasing through Forest Renewal are the ones created to manage the fund at the Forest Service Office. "So far all we know is that this program is in place and we have learned that from the TV commercials," Bass says. "We don’t know how to access the funding and we don’t know how many jobs it is supposed to save… all we do know is that a fair number of jobs are on the line."

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