Lillooet, AAC Rationale

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Harvest flow alternatives

The nature of the transition from harvesting in old-growth forests to harvesting in second-growth forests is a major consideration in determining AACs for areas with a significant old-growth component, such as the Lillooet TSA. In the short term, the presence of large volumes of older wood permits harvest levels above long-term levels without jeopardizing the future stability of timber supply. In keeping with the objectives of good forest stewardship, AACs in British Columbia have been and continue to be determined so as to ensure that current and medium-term harvest rates will be compatible with a smooth and orderly transition towards the usually (but not always) lower long-term harvest rates. Thus, timber supplies should remain sufficiently stable that there will be no inordinately adverse impacts on current and future generations. To achieve this, the rate set must not be so high as to cause later disruptive shortfalls in supply, nor so low as to cause immediate social and economic impacts that are unnecessary to maintain forest productivity and future harvest stability.

The BCFS base case showed that, due to the availability of higher volume older stands, harvest levels in the short and mid terms in the TSA can remain above, but must decline toward a long-term steady harvest level by about 90 years from now. The base case projected that the existing inventory and future growth will enable the current AAC of 650 000 m³ to be maintained for 30 years, after which timber supply would decline by 8 percent per decade until the long-term harvest level of 362 600 m³ is reached 90 years from now.

Many other harvest flow patterns are possible and the timber supply analysis indicated some alternatives. If a gradual decline in harvest level to the long term level is not required, then a harvest level of 650 000 m³ could be maintained for

70 years. However, after the 70 years an abrupt reduction of about 50 percent would be required, to a level below the currently projected long-term harvest level (about 330 000 m³) until 140 years from now when the harvest could increase to the long-term level projected in the base case.

Another alternative examined the effects of immediately reducing the initial harvest level to 520 000 m³ (80 percent of the current AAC) and maintaining the harvest at that rate for as long as possible. Analysis showed this reduced initial harvest level could be maintained for 90 years before falling by 8 percent per decade until the long-term harvest level is reached, 130 years from now.

In making my determination, I have considered the socio-economic analysis (SEA) report for the Lillooet TSA prepared by the BCFS. The SEA describes the economic importance of the TSA's forest industry, both to local communities and to the province as a whole. The SEA shows that about 27 percent of employment in the Lillooet TSA is associated with the forest sector, and estimates that the current AAC supports 657 person-years of employment in the TSA (direct and indirect/induced) and 2516 person-years province-wide. It also shows that the harvesting of the current AAC generates estimated provincial government revenues of $21 million per year.

The SEA discusses the economic, community, First Nations, and environmental implications associated with two timber harvest forecast scenarios. Scenario One in the SEA corresponds to the base case, while Scenario Two corresponds to the alternative with the initial annual harvest level of 520 000 m³ described above. These scenarios were chosen to illustrate a range of socio-economic implications.

Relative to Scenario One, in the first decade under Scenario Two there would be 132 fewer person-years of employment in the TSA (about 5 percent of the TSA's labour force), 504 fewer person-years of employment province-wide, and $4.1 million less in annual provincial government revenues from the forest sector. The SEA discusses the potential implications of these impacts for individuals and communities in the TSA. Local First Nations bands expressed a preference for reduced harvest levels, for reasons related to environmental protection, traditional uses of the forest, and land claims. However, some also see the forest sector as a means to provide employment opportunities and economic development, and many First Nations people are active participants in the forest industry.

A number of submissions received during the public input period raised concerns about the SEA. The Cariboo Lumber Manufacturers' Association (CLMA) expressed concerns that the SEA underestimated the local economic importance of the timber industry. BCFS staff reviewed this submission, and concluded that the SEA presented a reasonably accurate picture of forestry in the TSA's economy. The CLMA also provided additional information, regarding mill throughput levels and the demographic profile of mill employees. Other submissions noted concerns related to the SEA, including the following: the negative impact of logging on environmental values, tourism, and outdoor recreation; the value of First Nations' traditional uses of the forest; the potential employment impacts of lower harvest levels; and the accuracy of the TSA population estimates.

I have given consideration to the points raised in these submissions, and upon review, I find it is reasonable to rely on the SEA for some guidance on issues relating to socio-economic factors. From this I am aware of the dependence of local communities in the TSA on timber harvesting, which I have considered, along with the social and economic objectives of the Crown (discussed below), in assessing the implications to the province of alternative harvest rates.

One factor to which I have given extensive consideration, in my assessment of the implications of alternative rates of harvest in this and in other recent AAC determinations, is the taking into account of reductions in timber supply which may result from government decisions to protect areas within, or for other reasons to remove areas from, the timber harvesting land base of a TSA. As noted above, under Stein Valley, in this TSA the Stein Valley has been recently designated as a Class A park, with no additional interacting components of an overall land use plan intended to offset the associated timber supply impacts, as has been the case in other recent determinations. In the present case it is therefore clear that the designation of this park has reduced the overall timber inventory in the Lillooet TSA. However, the short-term stability of the timber supply in this TSA permits the consequent reductions in harvesting opportunities to be accounted for over time in a number of ways, with differing temporal distributions of risks and costs. I have addressed this in "Reasons for decision".

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