BC: An Important Wood Supplier
No matter which way you slice the world's wood supply pie, BC has been providing a big piece for decades and continues to do so despite major changes in the industry.
At the end of the '70s, the province was providing more than one-third of all the lumber traded in the world; by the beginning of the '80s, it was supplying more than half of the lumber Japan imported. By the early '90s, even with a host of new suppliers entering world markets with inexpensive, fast-growing wood, BC was producing around 11 percent of the world's softwood lumber. (The rest of Canada, by comparison, was producing about 8 percent.)
In the early '90s , changing social values, which emphasized environmental concerns, placed new constraints on the amount of BC's land available for timber harvesting and the way it could be done. In addition, BC started feeling the effects from "falldown," which occurs when forests planted to replace logged areas are harvested at younger ages, and therefore produce less volume.
All of these factors have culminated in allowable annual cuts (AACs)-the maximum amount of timber allowed to be harvested each year-that have been steadily declining since 1990 in some areas, a trend that some people mistakenly think has come about because the province's forests are threatened.
"AACs are being reviewed and revised where necessary as part of BC's commitment to sustainable forest management," Larry Pedersen, the province's chief forester, notes. "In some areas, AACs are being reduced as a result of changes in the land base due to new parks and evolving social values. Under the Forest Practices Code, many areas are dedicated to other needs such as wildlife habitat and biodiversity conservation. However, we are not running out of wood for timber production."
In fact, the Ministry of Forests' forecasts show that after about 50 years of declining AACs in BC's coastal forests, and an equal period of relatively stable harvest levels in much of the interior, AACs will increase in virtually all areas of the province as a result of intensive forest management, such as fertilization. In the meantime, the declining cutting rates are demanding that BC's forest companies work smarter than ever.
"People recognize the resource is scarce now and some time into the future, and that they need to aggressively explore management alternatives," says Pedersen. "Through the Timber Supply Review, we have seen a view of the future with significant AAC declines. As a society, we have the ability to change that view, but it will require significant changes in our forest management strategies."