(Black Press File Photo)

(Black Press File Photo)

Bulkley Valley foresters share concerns on stumpage harmonization

Smithers Committee of the Whole hear Bulkley Valley foresters concerns about stumpage harmonization

The provincial government’s plans to even out stumpage fees — the money paid to the province for wood cut on Crown lands — raised concerns by speakers at the Smithers town council’s March 23 committee of the whole meeting (COW).

Currently, there is a disparity between the stumpage fees applied to woodlot licences, community forest agreements and First Nations woodland licences.

According to the province’s “Modernizing Forest Policy in British Columbia” report, that is going to change.

“We will harmonize the rate structures, consistent with our market-based pricing system, while being mindful that smaller tenure ownership is impacted by economies of scale,” the report says.

Local forest ministry manager Cam Bentley told those present no decision has been made on harmonization and what it will look like is a matter of ongoing consultation.

Matt Sear, a registered professional forester but speaking as a recreational skier, worried about community impact.

“As a member of the community involved in the [Bulkley Valley Cross-Country] Ski Club, that club has enjoyed many grants from Wetzink’wa [Community Forest] to buy equipment and to keep that ski club running,” he said. “I would be concerned that stumpage harmonization could impact the ability of the community forest to keep giving back to the community.”

Wetzink’wa Community Forest also spoke directly to the potential impact of harmonization through Aurora Lavender, assistant general manager.

Lavender pointed to letter by the executive director of the BC Community Forests Association that emphasizes the socio-economic success of community forests is made possible by the existing pricing policy.

That success includes Wetzink’wa’s enhanced stewardship program, “which provides recreational, ecological and cultural benefits to the communities of Smithers, Telkwa and to Witset,” she said.

“Any changes to the current stumpage policy that results in community forest tenures paying more stumpage does not support the intentions that are outlined in the paper and will result in a decrease in direct economic benefits to the local communities from their community forest management,” she said.

Following all of the presentations, Mayor Gladys Atrill thanked everyone and said council will need some time to digest the information before deciding its next steps.

The matter will be brought forward again at the next regular council meeting on April 12, she said.