Tree nursery on Vancouver Island, one of a network of seedling farms financed by B.C. forest companies to meet their legal obligation to reforest harvested areas. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)

B.C. rethinks tree planting after wildfires, beetles deplete forests

Feb. 18 budget to show direction after Trudeau’s two-billion-tree pledge

The B.C. NDP government is preparing to overhaul its reforestation program after widespread fires and the Justin Trudeau government’s promise to plant two billion trees across Canada in the years to come.

With the forest industry facing a wave of sawmill closures as Crown timber harvest is chopped to match a depleted B.C. Interior stock of harvestable trees, the province is poised to scrap the system left to them by the previous B.C. Liberal government.

The Forest Enhancement Society of B.C. is the primary vehicle for recovering forests from fires and dealing with the overwhelming job of dealing with dead wood that accelerates wildfires. Its last $163 million budget allocation is almost gone after the latest round of waste wood projects announced by Forests Minister Doug Donaldson in late January.

“It looks like they’re beginning to wrap it up because [the society] has about $2 million left in the fund,” B.C. Liberal forest critic John Rustad told Black Press. “There has not been a penny put into FESBC by the B.C. NDP government.”

The forests ministry confirmed that the society’s budget is nearly all committed, adding that any further program information will have to wait for Finance Minister Carole James’ Feb. 18 provincial budget.

“The B.C. government has invested $235 million in the society, with about $233 million allocated as of Jan. 30, 2020, for 250 projects related to wildfire risk reduction, reforestation, forest rehabilitation and wildlife habitat restoration, and for raising awareness of the FireSmart program,” the ministry said in a statement provided to Black Press.

RELATED: Donaldson announces $2 million for waste wood recovery

RELATED: Horgan looks ahead as B.C. legislature sitting resumes

B.C.’s tree planting deficit has been a point of debate for many years. In 2012, the province’s independent Forest Practices Board issued a report estimating that two million hectares of forest needed to be replanted after fire and beetle damage. One quarter of that was the responsibility of forest companies that had logged the areas.

Wildfire damage aside, forest companies are responsible for replanting harvested areas and bringing the seedlings up to self-sustaining size.

In the fall 2019 federal election campaign, Trudeau government pledged to plant two billion trees to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, using revenue from the Trans Mountain pipeline project. Forestry and other natural resources remain a provincial responsibility and it’s not yet clear how Ottawa intends to implement its plan.

Rustad said the B.C. NDP government should be developing a strategy for Ottawa’s program.

“There is no plan, no structure, no proposal at this point by the provincial government other than, hey, we’re interested,” he said. “The big challenge with reforestation in B.C. is that even if we wanted to go out and plant the areas impacted, we don’t have the nurseries, we don’t have the seed stock coming in, and we certainly don’t have the crews to go out and do all the planting that needs to be done.”

With vast areas of B.C. Interior depleted by a historic mountain pine beetle outbreak, it remains in question whether hiring crews to replant seedlings is necessary or advisable. A 2006 study for Natural Resources Canada found that 40 per cent of beetle-killed lodgepole pine-dominant areas have a natural understory of young trees not affected by beetle kill, and regenerate without salvage logging or planting.

“Ecological restoration may be needed to repair critical habitats or to safeguard aquatic resources in the wake of a pine beetle outbreak,” researcher Philip Burton concluded. “However, restoration must be done with clear objectives, and is likely to be a minor part of the overall management picture.”


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC legislatureforestry

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

July update: 200 workers at CGL pipeline camp in Vanderhoof

District not providing information on total revenue being earned from renting land to TransCanada for CGL camp.

Skeena Resources, Tahltan prez excited by purchase of Eskay Creek

Skeena gets full control of mine, Barrick gets 12 per cent of Skeena and a one per cent royalty

VIA Rail lays off 1,000 unionized workers across the country

Northern B.C. route Jasper to Prince George to Prince Rupert is not affected by VIA Rail layoffs

Man arrested in Vanderhoof in connection to Alberta mall shooting

Jacob Doubt, 23, is facing a number of firearms-related charges

B.C. sees 25 new COVID-19 cases, community exposure tracked

One death, outbreaks remain in two long-term care facilities

Northern B.C. First Nations call for reversal of grizzly bear hunting ban

Growing grizzly populations have led to fewer ungulates and increased fear of attacks says Chad Day

RCMP ‘disappointed’ by talk that race a factor in quiet Rideau Hall arrest

Corey Hurren, who is from Manitoba, is facing 22 charges

NHL’s Canadian hubs offer little economic benefit, but morale boost is valuable: experts

Games are slated to start Aug. 1 with six Canadian teams qualifying for the 24-team resumption of play

‘Made in the Cowichan Valley’ coming to a wine bottle near you

Cowichan Valley has the honour of being the first sub-GI outside of the Okanagan

VIDEO: Vancouver Island cat missing 18 months reunited with family

Blue the cat found at Victoria museum 17 kilometres from home

VIDEO: Alberta man rescues baby eagle believed to be drowning in East Kootenay lake

Brett Bacon was boating on a lake in Windermere when he spotted the baby eagle struggling in the water

Conservationists raise concerns over state of care for grizzly cubs transferred to B.C. zoo

‘Let them be assessed now before their fate is sealed,’ urges B.C. conservationist Barb Murray

B.C.’s COVID-19 job recovery led by tourism, finance minister says

Okanagan a bright spot for in-province visitor economy

Most Read