Don’t blame the messengers

This sentiment dates back to some of our earliest written histories.

This sentiment dates back to some of our earliest written histories. In ancient Greece, Sophocles observed, “No one loves the messenger who brings bad news.”

The local Nadina forest district office recently conveyed some information about the state of forest management in our neighbouring Morice timber supply area (TSA) that wasn’t what people concerned with timber supply wanted to hear.

We don’t have the numbers on hand to say exactly how many Burns Lake area contractors work in the Morice TSA, but we know what happens there affects us here – ignoring the state of the logging and mill industry next door is to be the ostrich with its head in the sand.

Over-harvesting of non-pine species, directors at a recent RDBN committee meeting learned, has been on the rise over the last few years.

More disconcerting, attempts to deal with the over-harvest were stymied by an unworkable enforcement order which was lifted at a ministerial level.

So why weren’t those responsible at a ministerial level on hand to deliver the news that over-harvest of non-pine species has risen and been tacitly approved as the new normal?

Sure, we learned that licensees have put their own plan in place to deal with the over-harvesting, and time will tell how effective that plan is.

But it’s not a mill owner’s job to manage the forest. It’s a mill owner’s job to keep the mill running and profitable.

It also seems there is no ill-intent on the part of licensees when it comes to respecting the mandated partition of pine vs. non-pine species put in place to ensure large chunks of the region’s mid-term timber supply don’t vanish in the rush to harvest dead pine before it’s worthless.

Prior 2011, licensees not only adhered to the partition, but were able to do a bit better.

Something has changed since then, and unless you want to believe large forest license holders don’t care about the state of the forest, the natural conclusion is that it’s become impractical to harvest stands which meet partition criteria.

Mills need timber volume the way businesses need cash-flow. When a business gets into trouble it will often make decisions for the sake of cash flow rather than for the sake of profitability or long term sustainability.

In home construction, you’ll see contractors start to place bids that are well below going rates for the sake of paying immediate bills, even though the new money doesn’t cover the current cost of doing business.

You’ll see home builders take deposits towards new projects and use the money to pay contractors money owing from previous jobs to avoid being sued.

You can call it robbing Peter to pay Paul, or you can describe it as a construction bubble, but we’ve seen where it ends.

Do we have a forestry bubble right here in the North Central Interior?

If the Nadina district office is to forestry what a chartered accountant is to a business, then we need to really take notice of what they’re saying about forestry around here.

If your accountant tells you that your business model isn’t sustainable or is otherwise broken, but you keep at it anyway, you’d better have a hell of a plan in place to deal with the outcome.

And don’t blame your accountant.

There are two things we need to hear, directly and frankly, from our elected leaders.

First, how wide-spread is over-harvest throughout pine-beetle affected B.C.

Second, if over-harvest is unavoidable, what is the plan for preserving mid-term timber supply?

In other words, what is the plan for tomorrow’s forestry jobs?


Burns Lake Lakes District News