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Policy Tracker: Unlocking the Potential of Forest Residual Biomass 

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Currently, B.C.’s forest, climate and energy policies are not unified on maximizing the value of forests for all stakeholders, leaving some gaps in B.C.’s policies and opportunities that will be needed to achieve Canada’s climate targets under the Paris Agreement (St-Laurent et al., 2017).  

This policy looks to remove operational challenges associated with the availability and accessibility of B.C. forest residues. This will enable better use of our forest resources, help with new job and industry creation, and help Canada take a step towards achieving climate change targets. 

BACKGROUND  

Canada’s Forest Industry  

Forests are a major source of wealth for Canadians, providing a wide range of economic, social, and environmental benefits. Approximately 95 percent of B.C.’s forests are publicly owned, allowing the Province to help determine where, when, and how forest resources can be used for the best long-term benefit of its citizens. 

This is achieved through government regulations defined in the Forest Act, which largely govern the actions of private businesses who operate at various stages of the harvesting lifecycle: planning, planting, and forest management; road-building and harvesting; wood product manufacturing (primary and secondary); pulp, paper and bio-refining; and forest product marketing. 

These actions benefit Canadians in a number of ways, including direct and indirect economic stimulus.  

In 2018, total economic output for the sector was $33 billion; total GDP from the forestry sector was $12.9 billion… 

The forest industry contributed approximately $1.4 billion (federal), $2.6 billion (provincial), and $200 million (municipal) to government revenues. The sector is the primary employer in many parts of the province and approximately 40% of B.C.’s regional economies are dependent on forestry through directly harvesting and/or processing forest products. Forestry-related activities directly support over 7,000 businesses and employ 140,000 British Columbians in 60,000 direct and 81,000 indirect jobs; generated $8.6 billion in wages to workers… 

A study from 2017 confirmed the importance of the industry to BC showing that it generated 1 out of every 17 jobs in the Province. 

Value also flows back to Canadians through Stumpage. Stumpage is a payment for use of a public natural resource and is not the same as logging tax. The money raised by stumpage is used to fund vital social services such as education and health care 

Value also flows back to Canadians through Stumpage. Stumpage is a payment for use of a public natural resource and is not the same as logging tax. The money raised by stumpage is used to fund vital social services such as education and health care1. 

Forest Residuals (fibre) 

British Columbia and the rest of Canada’s provinces have some of the most comprehensive forest management policies in the world and are globally recognized for producing sustainably derived forest products2. Typically, these forest products are produced using conventional logging techniques where the tops and branches are removed and discarded and only the trunk (round wood) is removed from the forest as this is usually the most valuable part of the tree.  

Forest Residuals or “Residual Fibre” refers to the fibre that is left behind on a site after primary harvesting operations have been completed.  This fibre includes smaller and poor quality logs, pieces of logs, branches and other woody biomass. This waste is most often left in a cut block, piled by machinery in large “slash piles” and burned with the intention to reduce the fire hazard that exists on a site post-harvest. 

The volume of this wood fibre material, which is simply burned, instead of being utilized, is substantial. Recent data indicates that approximately 24.23 Green Metric Tonnes of this fibre is produced per hectare of forest which is logged. Logging currently occurs on about 190,000 hectares (470,000 acres) of forest per year in B.C.3. This means that approximately 4,600,000 Green Metric Tonnes of B.C.’s wood fibre resources are simply burned each year, rather than utilized to support the economy and fund public infrastructure.  

Forest residues represent a large, underutilized public resource in Canada. Other countries around the world (such as the US and Europe)4 have identified means to maximize their forest resources through fibre recovery. Canada could do likewise. 

Effective Policy Works 

Overcoming this challenge has been a topic of discussion for decades in Canada. Increasing the recovery and use of this fibre has recently been identified as a significant priority for the government and forest sector in British Columbia.  

B.C. is currently implementing various initiatives to enhance the utilization of residual fibre left on roadsides and landings within cut blocks which would otherwise be burned, but there are still many economic challenges within the current policy framework for these practices to be adopted on a larger scale.  

Canada, however, is not the only country with vast forest resources and many lessons can be adopted from other countries in the world who have found effective methods to maximize these public resources. The US and Sweden are both examples of countries with highly efficient forest management which includes residual fibre recovery (maximizing their forest resources). 

THE CHAMBER RECOMMENDS:  

The Provincial Government 

  1. Forge strong relationships with Indigenous peoples to increase access to fibre and generate new economic opportunities for Indigenous communities. 
  2. Reinstate the logging waste recovery economic framework to incent full implementation of our forest resources. 
  3. Approve 4 trials through-out the Province for commercial thinning (fuel management). This will reduce future wildfire risk, while at the same time help the Province to develop effective future fuel reduction programs. This is a major source of fiber supply in every developed country except Canada – it is time we caught up with the rest of the world.  
  4. Indicate that the forest industry’s costs to manage non-timber values is adequately recognized and that the forest industry pay to manage other forest resource users and values unless there is a direct cost recognition in the timber pricing system. This could include residual fibre deliveries, Indigenous people’s consultation, and range management costs among others. 

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The Kamloops Chamber of Commerce is situated on the traditional and unceded lands of the Tk'emlups Te Secwepemc within Secwepemc'ulucw, the traditional territory of the Secwepemc people. We are honored to live and work and play on this land and acknowledge the complicated history and humbly move forward in a spirit of collaboration and gratitude.