Forests. We all want them managed right. Right?

Did you know Port Alberni owns some of its own forest land? Check it out at http://www.communityforest.ca

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These lands are public lands, outside of the Dunsmuir/Private lands owned by Island Timberlands and Timberwest. The line runs right through Sproat Lake, you can see it forming the right boundary of the Sproat tenure in the image above. But consider for a moment how cool it would be if the whole of the forest and mountainside that you could see from your doorstep in Port Alberni was owned and controlled by the citizens of Port Alberni? Is that a goal you would be interested in achieving?

Here is the bad news though. We export raw logs from our own forests.

Can you believe it? I couldn’t. As this 2012 UBC report done for the City details, due to many factors local mills cannot access local logs and so between 2009-2011 there was a 300% increase in log exports. 73% of Port Alberni residents oppose log exports.

Another province-wide report linked from our own Port Alberni Port Authority says much the same thing. We must move away from log exports in order to increase both jobs and environmental sustainability in our forests.

I believe this leaves the City of Port Alberni in a terribly hypocritical position. It is going against its own stated better judgement as detailed by the facts, and it is going against the will of its residents.

On one hand it owns this land, acknowledges the problems around log exports and the opposition to them from the citizens of Port Alberni, yet it continues this same failed policy because, it seems, it is the only way for the City to make a buck on its forest?

Is that proper? Are you OK with that? Do you think the City should look at different ways of managing its forests that could still create jobs and bring revenue to the City?

Are there tourism opportunities being lost? What about sending a portion of the logs to McLean Mill to be cut and sold there to reduce costs to the City?

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What about more traditional uses and practices with First Nations or mushroom harvesters? Or, what about the example of Merve Wilkinson’s Wildwood land. Managed for decades without clear cutting anything but still bringing financial and social benefit? From his site:

Through Randon and Hodgeon, Wilkinson gets a premium price for his logs, as many customers know his management, have visited his tree farm, and can get the product and quality they want. In some cases buyers select trees. Third-party certification and labeling, a strategy designed to reward good forest stewardship via a higher price for labeled lumber, has not been needed, though Merve regards it as a good step for the industry.

“When Mark got his mill,” says Merve, “he put one ad in the paper. It just took off. The shipwright got into the game because Mark cuts his wood the way he wants it. He repairs wooden ships all over the west coast.”

Merve’s logs, which are sorted, bucked to length, and sawn according to customer preference, keep 26 people occupied. Some of them are hobbyists, such as a mandolin maker who uses some of Merve’s Douglas fir. Processing and marketing Wildwood’s logs provides most of Randon and Hodgeon’s income. Merve doesn’t have to accept the prevailing rate at the major mills, and is able to participate in the entire cycle from production of wood fiber to end use. Quality, sustainability, good economics, and customer satisfaction are the outcome.

Please share your thoughts in the comments.

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2 Responses to Forests. We all want them managed right. Right?

  1. Susan Roth says:

    The logs should be processed locally. It’s that simple.

    Maybe the city could set up an e-commerce website to sell the lumber?

  2. chrisale says:

    Exactly! Yes it will likely mean less revenue in the short term to the city, but if it can support the local economy, even in a small way to start and growing in time, isn’t that what we really need? I like the idea of web sales. Perhaps this could be a way to tie in the McLean mill as well. Advertise it’s specialty lumber, locally owned, locally produced, sustainably managed and high quality to clients near and far.

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