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Province slashes Mackenzie timber harvest

Chief forester drops annual allowable cut from 4.5 million to 2.39 million cubic metres
The province's chief forester announced Thursday the AAC in the Mackenzie Timber Supply Area has been reduced from 4.5 million to 2.39 million cubic metres. | Kim Steele/The Image Bank/Getty Images

B.C.’s chief forester Shane Burg slashed the annual allowable cut in the Mackenzie Timber Supply Area by nearly half on Thursday, from 4.5 million to 2.39 million cubic metres.

The reduction reflects diminished supply of beetle-killed wood left in the wake of the mountain pine beetle outbreak that ravaged Interior forests from 1999-2015.

Harvesting was stepped up in 2014 to cut more dead or dying trees before the wood lost its strength for processing into lumber and the AAC was increased to 4.5 million cubic metres after previously being set at 3 million cubic metres in 2010.

More than 50 per cent of the annual Mackenzie harvest included beetle-killed timber.

Mackenzie mayor Joan Atkinson spoke to Burg Thursday morning and said she is not surprised by the reduced AAC. Despite having the bar set at 4.5 million cubic metres over the past nine years, she said the Mackenzie area never approached that limit and has maintained an annual harvest closer to 3 million cubic metres.

Mackenzie has suffered two major mill closures over the past four years – Canfor’s sawmill shut down in July 2019 and the Paper Excellence Pulp Mill closed permanently in February 2021 – and harvested wood from that region is now bypassing the town of 3,400.

“This 2.39 million cubic metres is certainly enough fibre to supply what’s needed at our mills locally,” said Atkinson. “This community’s biggest concern continues to be the fact that our largest tenure-holder, Canfor, shut down their processing facility in 2019 and they still hold a million cubic metres of wood of the cut, which will be reduced by this new AAC.

“But the fact is all the wood they process rolls down the highway and does not get processed at all in our timber supply area. We still have a fairly healthy fibre basket that has its challenges because some of the wood is 300 kilometres away on bush road to get to the mills.”

Determining the AAC is first of a three-step process.

Minister of Forests Bruce Ralston now will have to decide on apportionment and how much volume of the AAC will be assigned to each type of licence, whether it’s a large replaceable allotment to the big companies, First Nation licence, non-replaceable licence or tree farm licence.

The regional executive director will then distribute what has been apportioned to each licence holder.

“When the cut was reduced in Prince George in 2017 it took more than five years to complete the apportionment and distribution,” said Atkinson. “I mentioned that this morning to the chief forester and he gave me assurances that people are working as hard and as quickly as they can to move this forward.