Skeena Sawmills (file photo)

Skeena Sawmills audit good overall, but fault found in tree planting

Violation only issue discovered in Forest Practices Board report

A recent audit of Skeena Sawmills found five cutblocks in the Kitimat area were in non-compliance with provincial regulations governing silviculture. At issue was the planting of seedlings outside the allowable elevation zone. The finding by the Forest Practices Board was the only fault discovered in a random audit last summer to ensure the company’s practices are in line with the Forest and Range Practices Act and the Wildfire Act.

Planting seedlings in the wrong elevation can potentially lower their overall survival and productivity rates. Skeena Sawmills’ woodlands manager, Greg Demille, says the seedlings were placed about 80 metres outside the proper elevation zone. The contractor responsible is no longer employed by the mill, due in part to the error.

“It wasn’t very far outside the zone, so we’re quite confident the trees there will survive and grow as they should,” Demille says.

“Aside from that, it [the audit] was a great experience. I don’t say that tongue in cheek. It’s a great exercise to see how you’re doing and if you’re meeting required standards.”

The FPB report stated Skeena Sawmills overall is meeting provincial requirements. Activities audited include harvesting timber, constructing and maintaining forestry roads, reforesting logged sites, wildfire protection and associated planning carried out between August 2016 and August 2018. During the two-year period, Skeena harvested 41 cutblocks, constructed 51 kilometres of road and maintained 448 kilometres of road, planted 18 cutblocks and abated fire hazards on 15 cutblocks, according to the FPB report.

“This was my first exposure to the FPB audit process and I was impressed at the thoroughness and rigor,” says Skeena Sawmills president Roger Keery. “Despite the one issue identified, it gives me a much higher level of confidence in Skeena’s management of the forest resource.”

The audit took place on two forest licenses within 40 kilometres of Kitimat, one lying between the Kitimat River and Miskatla Inlet, and the other just south of Meziadin Lake, along the Kinskuch River and Little Paw Creek.

“One of the main purposes of our audits is to encourage continuous improvement of forest practices,” says Kevin Kriese, chair of the Forest Practices Board. “Skeena has told us they learned a lot from the audit process, as the audit highlighted the areas where they are managing their practices well and the areas where they have to improve in the future.”

The Forest Practices Board is B.C.’s independent watchdog for forest and range practices, reporting its findings and recommendations directly to the public and government. It can also make recommendations for improvement to practices and legislation.


 

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