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Guest column: Poor information will cost taxpayers, says pro-logging group

The reserve has the potential to generate more than $2.1 million annually
(Citizen file)

North Cowichan’s tax base will continue to be depleted if elected officials proceed with a flawed study that sells short forestry revenues by 100 per cent while overstating gains from carbon credits.

Since the 1960s North Cowichan has been one of a handful of small municipally owned successful forest businesses. The small forest reserve balanced environmental, recreational, and economic interests until a small but very vocal group started demanding a stop to all timber harvesting.

The reserve, which covers 5,470 hectares, has the potential to generate more than $2.1 million annually in revenue for the municipality. That’s an impressive return considering that less than one per cent of the reserve is harvested each year. The harvest rate is also 50 per cent less than the actual rate of growth which means the forest is growing faster than it is being harvested.

Unfortunately, elected officials, pressured by an anti-forestry group, commissioned the University of British Columbia to conduct a study to determine the potential revenues created by carbon credits generated by permanently halting timber harvesting. Surprisingly, not a single registered professional forester is listed as an author — that’s akin to building a bridge without a professional engineer signing off on the report.

So, a small group of community leaders, professional and retired foresters reviewed the report and found significant flaws and misleading conclusions. A small sample shows that:

• The study ignores the upfront cost of nearly $200,000 to start a carbon credit program and that the potential revenues of $1.29 million/year are heavily weighted to the final 20 to 30 years in the forecast.

• Conversely, the UBC authors, modeling the annual harvest at 17,000 m3 per year, grossly understate the annual value of forestry at $1.05 million. A simple calculation, at today’s log prices ($193/m3), net of harvesting cost, generates $2.53 million.

Stopping timber harvesting for the last four years has been very expensive for the community and local businesses. While council spent the past four years pondering the fate of our community forestry business, local businesses and forest workers have lost out on nearly $750,000 each year in contract timber harvesting revenues from forestry; taxpayers have lost $7.2 million in potential revenues. Furthermore, the $2.1 million rainy day reserve fund, generated from past responsible forest management in the reserve, will be depleted this year.

Before then, forestry activities in the reserve also covered the expense to maintain the other 99 per cent of the reserve not being logged — upkeep for trails and parking areas, fire protection, roads, along with funding other recreational projects in the community.

We believe that adopting modern alternative harvesting systems will protect and prioritize the environment, grow more forests, create additional recreational opportunities, and potentially generate carbon credits all the while ensuring a stable tax base that supports the needs of the broader society.

The fact is there is too much at stake not to take the time to get this right. We should all be asking our local elected officials to engage credible carbon accounting firms and registered professional foresters to provide accurate data so we can make the best decisions together that advance balanced solutions for the benefit of everyone, not a selected few.

Friends of the Municipal Forest

• Glen Ridgway, retired lawyer, past councillor MNC

• Darrell Frank, professional forester (Ret), retired municipal forester, MNC

• Jim Dias, retired North Cowichan CAO

• Eric Jeklin, professional forester, small woodlot owner

• Marie Martin, former owner operator gravel trucking business

• John Mitchell, professional forester (Ret), past chief forester, TimberWest Forest

• Robert Beard, professional forester (Ret), past executive, TimberWest Forest

• Tom Walker, MOF district forest manager (Ret), past mayor, MNC

• Wayne Coombs, professional forester (Ret), past consulting forester

• John Allen RPF., J.F. Allen Consulting Ltd., management services

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