By HUBERT BEYER
VICTORIA – Meet Brian Beresford, a Cranbrook helicopter logging operator whose brushes with a sluggish and reluctant-to-change Forest Service cost him $200,000.
Beresford wasn’t in the business of cutting down healthy trees. He was in the salvage business, harvesting trees that would otherwise rot.
I’d also like you to meet Lawrence Shubert, owner of a Cranbrook saw mill that is idle because he can’t get his hands on timber. Shubert could use all the salvage wood Beresford might be able to supply.
The Cranbrook Daily Townsman recently publicized the plight of the two in particular and the need for bureaucrats to make things a little easier for people with good ideas in general. I thought it might be a good idea to add to the impact of the story by giving it province-wide exposure.
Beresford employed 14 people in a salvage logging show at Matthew Creek, near Kimberley. All the timber he took out was left over from a fire that had ravaged the area.
Beresford would have made money on the operation and provided badly-needed timber for small independent saw mills in the area, had it not been for excessive red tape.
Last winter his operation was shut down because, on orders from the Workers’ Compensation Board, his crew cut down trees outside the prescription area. The WCB said leaving the trees in question would pose a safety hazard. The Forest Service called it a trespass.
Eventually, the Forest Service agreed with the WCB and expanded the area Beresford was allowed to log, but two weeks had been lost.
Last spring, he was shut down again, this time because a consultant hired by the Forest Service said the ground was unstable due to run-off conditions in the watershed. Again, Beresford was eventually allowed to go ahead, but again, he had lost time and money.
He’s still an enthusiastic proponent of salvage logging. At Matthew Creek alone, it is estimated, there are still some 80,000 metres of burnt timber left, much of it salvageable.
Ironically, while Beresford was losing money on salvaging trees because of bureaucratic interference, and Shubert would give his eye teeth for salvaged timber, a similar exercise is going ahead full-steam in the Cariboo.
Last November, Forest Minister David Zirnhelt announced that that seven companies in the Cariboo – his home riding – had been awarded 3.5 million metres of beetle-killed timber. In a press release, the minister expressed downright pride over the massive salvage program.
Now, what’s good for the goose ought to be good for the gander. If salvage harvesting of timber can go ahead in the Cariboo, why not in the Kootenays, and I mean without the bureaucrats getting in the way?
Beresford says the large companies aren’t interested in salvage timber. Their mills are computerized to produce dimension lumber in the most efficient way. And for that, they need green timber.
A small, independent operator, on the other hand, can turn burnt wood into anything from kitchen cabinets to house logs, from furniture to two-by-fours.
Forestry is still the province’s most important industry, and not just for the people employed by it. If British Columbians working in the forests and the related secondary industries don’t earn a livelihood, the stream of tax dollars to Victoria will dry up and the cappuccino-sucking city slickers can kiss their standard of living goodbye, too.
At a time when annual allowable cuts in most regions are being drastically reduced, salvaging timber destroyed by fire or insects is one way to ease the transition to a more sustainable forestry.
All that’s needed is some streamlining of the bureaucracy which, in this case, is not so much mean-spirited as it is slow to move. People like Beresford and Shubert will do the rest. Over to you, minister.