Al Siebring photo _edited.jpg

Municipal logging program generates minimal profits, ships raw logs offshore

More than six out of 10 trees harvested in North Cowichan’s Municipal Forest Reserve last year were exported as raw logs, the 2019 Forestry Report reveals.

Raw-log exports totalled 63 per cent of the municipal harvest of 15,255 cubic metres in 2019, up from 58 per cent of 11,562 cubic metres in 2018.

That’s right, in the midst of a moratorium on new logging contracts pending a public consultation on the 5,000-hectare forest reserve, the Municipality found a way to increase harvesting through blowdown timber and fulfillment of outstanding logging contracts.

Raw-log exports have long been a controversial topic in B.C. Recently, Mosaic Forest Management, the province’s biggest private logger, has indicated it wants restrictions on raw-log exports further reduced.

The fact that most of North Cowichan’s logs are exported further erodes the argument that logging of the forest reserve is needed to support the local economy.

As reported earlier, logging last year in the forest reserve created as few as an estimated 10 direct jobs — at least two of those municipal staffers. The two logging companies that operated in the reserve last year are from outside North Cowichan.

Truth is, there are far better ways for the municipality to earn income from our forests — namely, carbon-credit cash for leaving our trees standing.

A report for North Cowichan by 3GreenTree Ecosystem Services Ltd. states: “Initial estimates indicate that a carbon offset project on the MFR could provide an ongoing, stable revenue source to the MNC competitive with the current logging model….”

The report adds: “MNC should develop relationships among local entities (businesses, NGOs, government) interested in offsetting their carbon emissions, as purchasers of the MFR carbon credits. These over-the-counter transactions have better prospects for prices that reflect the high value of the credits generated from the project.”

You’ll be hearing a lot more about this win-win scenario in the coming days.

Meanwhile, logging in the Municipal Forest Reserve achieved gross revenues of $1.5 million last year — but don’t get excited.

When you subtract all the costs of getting that timber — logging, road building and maintenance, silviculture, tree pruning and protection, engineering, etc. — the forestry program winds up with a net profit of $275,255. Of that amount, 30 per cent went to general revenues, 50 per cent to forest reserve fund, and 20 per cent to forest legacy fund.

The net profit includes $86,066 for cell-tower rentals and $13,169 as “other revenue.” Deduct those items and the net profit drops to $176,020.

The cell-tower rental first shows up on the books in 2017, generating $86,658 in revenue. Now, subtract that amount along with $11,625 in other revenue from the forestry program’s stated net income of $130,167.

That leaves just $31,884 in net logging profits — yet all North Cowichan citizens live with the ugly and environmentally damaging legacy of these clearcuts for decades.

Since 1987, the forestry program has pocketed just $132,740 a year on average.

What the 2019 forestry report does not show — and what taxpayers deserve — is a detailed and independent estimate of what it would cost to manage our forests in the absence of logging.

Note that municipal administration costs sucked up $365,929 in 2019.

Bottom line: the numbers in support of continued logging just don’t add up.

(Photo: Municipal clearcut atop Mt. Prevost.)

— Larry Pynn June 30, 2020

Al Siebring photo _edited.jpg

Al Siebring photo _edited.jpg

Al Siebring photo _edited.jpg