Sunday, September 26, 2010

A positive BC Minister of Forests

Pat Bell the BC Minister of Forests paints a positive picture for the future in a recent You Tube video. He tells the public about value added wood products in the form of sawdust pellets for heating purposes. A sustainable wood supply will be achieved by planting 20 million more trees. More BC wood is going to China. Building higher buildings with wood will also help sales.

Overly positive people often have a cognitive style that pays little attention to the details and are merely engaging in wishful thinking.

BC will need more seedlings to regenerate 13 million hectares of forests lost to the mountain pine beetle epidemic. The Minister's 20 million extra trees is only enough for a few thousand hectares. At that rate it will take several hundred years to complete the job.

BC needs to set its sights on many value added wood products. Converting sawdust to wood burning pellets does bring a few jobs and dollars from a waste product. Value added wood products involves using the best clear wood for high end wood products such as doors, interior finishing products and furniture. Growth of these wood industries has been impeded in BC by the allocation of most of the timber from public forests to commodity producing forest companies. Although BC has some of the highest quality coniferous wood in the world it is streamed into pulp and paper and wood frame construction products.

It is good that BC wood products are starting to penetrate the Chinese market. Selling BC wood products to new markets first involves an effort to sell the new customers on the merits of North American style wood frame construction. This tends to limit the opportunities. If BC had a more diversified wood utilization industry, its potential opportunities in other markets will expand greatly.

The wood frame mindset is also involved in the notion of building higher with wood. This is an attempt to replace some steel and concrete apartment and high rise construction with wood frame. BC can grow large timber that can be used for post and beam or large timber frame construction. There are endless opportunities for using open architectural beams and wood work in buildings of all sizes. Value added industries specializing in this type of work have not developed in BC because public timber was allocated to commodity producers.

Will BC's forest sector achieve a bright future in the 21st century if it sticks with the formula that worked in the 20th Century?