Healthy Forests-Healthy Communities – exploring silviculture in the Valley

A Healthy Forests - Healthy Communities Community public forum will be held on Saturday, Nov 5 at 1 p.m. in the Wells Gray Hotel

Warren MacLennan has worked in the silviculture industry for many years but is finding less and less of the work is going to local contractors.

Warren MacLennan has worked in the silviculture industry for many years but is finding less and less of the work is going to local contractors.

This interview with Warren McLennan is one in a series exploring aspects of forestry. The series will lead to the Healthy Forests – Healthy Communities Community public forum on Saturday, Nov 5 at 1 p.m. in the Wells Gray Hotel. We welcome your perspectives on forestry. Share your views at the upcoming pubic dialogue.

Warren McLennan is a silviculture contractor and resident of Clearwater.

Question: The forests of the North Thompson have been an important part of your livelihood. How long have you been a silviculture contractor in the North Thompson?

Answer: I’ve been providing silviculture services to the industry for over 20 years.

Question: What was the nature of your business six to eight years ago?

Answer: I provided employment for anywhere from 10 to 20 workers on a steady basis and up to 50 workers in peak times in various forest practices including planting, brushing, pruning, girdling, etc. The employees included experienced forest workers and students.

Question: What has changed in the silviculture industry recently?

Answer: There has been significant reduction in silviculture operations by both industry and government.  Since the permanent closure of the Weyerhaeuser sawmill and the interruptions of the Canfor operations employment opportunities for silviculture workers are much less.  In addition there have been reductions in provincial funded programs such as Forest Renewal BC (FRBC), Forest for Tomorrow, etc. To pick up the slack, I’ve been working mostly with local forest woodlots and First Nations woodlots.

With the recent increase in forest fires and the introduction of forest fuel management programs some workers have been able to find short-term employment in the community. The District of Clearwater was instrumental in bring this program to the community.

Question: What has been the impact on local employment and the economic stability of our community?

Answer: Experienced local employees are no longer available. People have left the community to find temporary work elsewhere and in many cases, families follow later. Today, a trained workforce in forestry is at an all time low and is close to no longer existing.

Question: Going forward, what constraints need to be addressed?

Answer: There are two issues. First is the lack of a trained qualified work force and ongoing employment opportunities. Providing a formal training program for new workers would be the first step to address this gap.

Second is the question regarding the focus of forest management at this time, which is to meet the legislated ‘free-to-grow’ standards.  Are we getting healthy sustainable forests from today’s standards of forest management?

– Bas Delaney