Mike Carter, Chetwynd Echo
CHETWYND – Chetwynd Forest Industries, a division of West Fraser Mills, is finalizing its plan for a five-year pine salvage harvest in the Little Prairie Community Forest with a series of open houses in the town and surrounding areas to gather local input.
Open house meetings were held in Chetwynd, Saulteau and West Moberly from April 24 – 30.
The company plans to take what input they get from these meetings into consideration while they carry out the remaining fieldwork.
Harvesting of selected areas will begin in the summer of 2013.
Late in the fall of this year West Fraser plans to bring more information back to the communities in a second round of open houses after which, they hope to continue the harvest areas of dead pine until 2017 when the agreement expires.
Blair Lekstrom first announced the Little Prairie Community Forest in 2005 as a partnership between the communities of the West Moberly and Saulteau First Nations and the District of Chetwynd.
The original plan for the management of the community forest looked at a healthy stand of trees to be harvested in small amounts over time.
Since 2011, the board of Little Prairie Community Forest Incorporated (LPCFI) has been looking for a suitor to salvage the areas within the 14,000 hectares of land north of Chetwynd and south of Moberly Lake, which had become infested with the mountain pine beetle in the years since 2005.
Last July, LPCFI reached an agreement with Chetwynd Forest Industries (CFI).
Jason Mattioli, a registered professional forester and planning superintendent with CFI, presented an update to District of Chetwynd council ahead of the public open houses to keep councilors informed on the preliminary plan for the pine salvage that the company has been working on since this agreement was signed.
“There has been a lot of work in the background getting ready finding out exactly what’s out there,” Mattilloi said. “We’re in a stage now where we’ve got our work done and we’re going to start doing some open houses.
“We’ve had to amend our forest stewardship plan and that process is just about done [and] that [will allow us] to actually manage the area, we’ve been doing a bunch of mapping work; we’ve had a number of flights. We’ve got a bunch of field work in there determining where the pine is, how much pine is actually out there.”
With this work, the company was able to prepare visual models and mappings of the area to show where the pine beetle has affected the community forest and have begun sharing this information with the West Moberly and Saulteau First Nations.
“A lot of the pine is concentrated on the south-westerly side of the community forest with the odd patch up in other areas,” Mattioli explained.
“Quite a bit of the area has been dead since 2008/2009, so we’re looking at four or five years old now. Those trees are starting to dry out quite a bit.
There is only a number of years left where we are going to be able to get value out of them and turn them into lumber, so we’re looking at the next four and a half years to be doing large salvage operation within the community forest.”
During the fieldwork stage, Mattioli mentioned that a couple of conflicts regarding sensitive areas of land were identified and these areas will be avoided as the harvest begins.
“We’ve picked an area in the southwest portion that doesn’t have a lot of conflicts in there, there’s not a lot of different interests, its not a visual area, its not a critical First Nations area and that’s where we want to start harvesting and we plan on doing that this summer and also start to build a little bit of road to [help] with access into the areas.”
After the agreement expires in 2017, West Fraser holds the obligation to reforest and manage the cut block areas with pine trees until the areas are free growing, meaning they are roughly ten meters tall. After this, Mattioli expects the LPCFI will go back to the original plan for management from the 2005 announcement, with a small harvest over a few years.