NACFOR ramps up production after slow first five years

The Jackrabbit Interpretive Trail is being hailed as one of NACFOR’s successes from last year. - Arrow Lakes News file photo
The Jackrabbit Interpretive Trail is being hailed as one of NACFOR’s successes from last year.
— image credit: Arrow Lakes News file photo

The Nakusp & Area Community Forest took a big leap forward in 2013, making up for years of little logging with a massive harvest throughout the year.

“Some of our key successes is that in 2013 we harvested quite a lot of land base,” said Kathy Smith, the president of NACFOR, in a presentation to Nakusp council last week. “The reason why we were able to do that is because we had a lot of previous planning and development of harvesting areas and research into that that allowed us to ramp up for the improved markets.

“Because of the good markets, we had some positive financial results and improved financial stability for NACFOR moving forward.”

The presentation provided an overview of NACFOR’s work since its inception, as well as a look at plans going forward. Smith went over the company’s challenges and successes, and its plans for 2014 and beyond.

It was an auspicious start for NACFOR. From 2008 to 2011 they barely harvested any timber due to a combination of start-up lag and poor log markets.

2012 was the first year the Nakusp & Area Community Forest exceeded their annual allowable cut. Finally, last year, with wood markets improving, they made up for lost time, cutting 61,022 cubic-metres of timber.

One of the keys to the success was that the Ministry of Forests extended NACFOR’s cut-control period. The ministry sets out an annual allowable cut for logging companies and it expects the company to meet those targets over a five year period. For NACFOR, they were expected to log 100,000 cubic metres from 2008–2012, but because of the start-up lag and slow markets, they only reached 40 per cent of their total by the end of the period. Fortunately, the ministry extended their cut by another five years, giving NACFOR until the end of 2017 to cut 200,000 cubic-metres.

In 2013, NACFOR made up for lost time by ramping up production in the Macdonald Creek and Fosthall areas. This year, it is planning on logging 23,460 cubic-metres of wood in the Summit Lake, Box Lake and Galena Bay areas.

NACFOR’s challenges are consistent year-to-year, Smith said. The first is its operating area.

“We have eight separate operating areas and they are all unique unto themselves and they are not contiguous,” she said. “That presents challenges for planning purposes, for access.”

The other main challenge is the limited local log marketing opportunities, and the high transportation costs to sell logs out of market.

Another challenge is in finding local contractors to do the harvesting, particularly cable loggers.

“A shrinking contractor base in the Nakusp area limits our operational flexibility,” Smith said. “We can’t log that site or we need to go out of the area to find someone to log that area.”

Accomplishments in 2013 were numerous. NACFOR logged 61,022 cubic-metres over a total of 160 hectares. 61 per cent was done by ground-based logging and the remainder was cable logging.

That work entailed 2,795 person days of employment. About half of that was for logging, with the bulk of the rest split between forest management and hauling. Road work and silviculture represented a small portion of employment.

NACFOR planted 16,275 trees over 11.9 hectares; a mix of cedar, Douglas fir, larch, lodgepole pine and white pine was planted.

There were community and social initiatives. The main one Smith noted was the opening of the Jackrabbit Interpretive Trail in the Wensley Creek area in September.

NACFOR partnered with several educational institutions. A team of five masters students came up from the University of British Columbia to develop a two-part forest health strategy for the NACFOR area. As well, two UBC forestry students were employed as co-op students last summer and the Selkirk College second year forestry class did field work in NACFOR’s tenure.

NACFOR is also taking part in the BladeRunner program in Nakusp, sponsored a wood manufacturing workshop in Nakusp in November, donated six loads of birch firewood for community groups to auction off, and provided a total of $2,000 in bursaries to three Nakusp Secondary School grad students.

They worked with locals on forestry planning to take into account public concerns over logging, such as in the Fosthall area. “We had a lot of public discussions there because of the mushroom pickers and the recreational use.”

Similar discussions are taking place regarding toads in the Summit Lake area.

For 2014, NACFOR is planning on harvesting about 23,000 cubic-metres over 60 hectares. It intends to plant 220,140 trees of 170 hectares and build two kilometres of new road. They intend on doing layout and planning to cut another 25,000 cubic-metres of wood.

“We want to keep our shopping basket full so to speak,” said Smith. “If we want to log 25,000 cubic-metres, we don’t want to just plan on that 25. We want to have 75,000 so there’s some opportunities based upon markets so you can move around a little bit. If the market picks up really good, you have an opportunity of increasing that cut so you can make that bottom line number.”

Five questions for NACFOR

Following the NACFOR presentation, the Arrow Lakes News e-mailed five general questions to them. Some of their responses made reference to documents on NACFOR’s website.

What were the main successes of NACFOR in its first five years?

1. Working towards management commitments of the Community Forest Agreement, including approval of the Forest Stewardship Plan, Management Plan and cutting permits from 2008 to 2011 to enable operations to ramp up when log markets improved in 2012.

3. Completion of the Jackrabbit Interpretive trail.

What about the main challenges?

1. Limited markets for logs. Local mills closed, some premium log markets disappeared, mills are very specialized and use particular species and grades, log prices are disconnected from lumber prices, log sellers are generally price takers, freight costs and ferries limit reach to markets and its tougher to account for all factors.

2. Transportation costs from Nakusp to regional buyers reduces the narrow profit margins, making it uneconomic to manufacture some species and products.

Where do you see the forest industry going in the next five years?

1. A higher demand for wood products when the U.S. economy recovers.

2. Higher pricing for logs due to a declining timber supply across the province.

What are the main issues facing NACFOR in the next five years?

1. The biggest issue for NACFOR will be determining how best to return profits from forestry operations to the people of the Arrow Lakes communities. The Village of  Nakusp, sole shareholder of NACFOR, is working with the Board of Directors to formulate a profit distribution strategy that will create some form of community benefit and a lasting legacy, a fundamental premise of community forestry.

2. We recognize that community participation in NACFOR operations is fundamental to good management of the community forest. NACFOR will continue to work with stakeholders and members of the public towards transparent and meaningful communication.

3. We are currently working on a strategic level plan to develop a long term planning tool which will guide future operational activities. With more refined timber supply information, NACFOR will have more flexibility to respond to markets and maximize economic returns.

What does NACFOR need to do to be successful going forward?

1.  A diverse market for logs —  tied to the log supply info mentioned above —  local log market realities.

2. A good relationship with local forestry contractors in order to carry out operational activities.

3. Public support for forest management and business activities.

4. Maintaining strong relationships with community groups, educational organization and stakeholders.

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