Our natural resources are going up in smoke

This editorial appeared in the September 28, 2016 edition of the Interior News. Click here to download or view the original article.

There couldn’t have been a much starker example to raise the question of how we best utilize local natural resources than what happened in the air last Thursday from Smithers to Hazelton and beyond.

It’s obvious something went wrong and venting wasn’t what it was supposed to be with the result that industrial burning of residual wood piles from logging activities blanketed valley bottoms and communities with smoke.

At the time of publishing of this column, I will have met with local forestry and environment  officials to get the complete story but initial reports were of approximately 400 piles of ‘waste wood’ being burnt by Pacific Inland Resources in the Hydro hill vicinity near Telkwa, with all approvals and permits in place.

Obviously health concerns are a major worry. The geography of the Bulkley Valley can result in poor air quality for Smithers and other communities if residential and commercial burning and industrial emissions are not done properly. It doesn’t help when government cutbacks or a realignment of government priorities have led to a decrease in the ability to monitor air quality locally.

The most recent incident is a reminder of a natural resource that has come to be known as ‘waste wood.’

I brought this up in the legislature during Question Period in 2011 when a massive burn of 3,600 piles of residual debris occurred around the Burns Lake area at the same time existing and proposed pellet plants in that area were looking for supply.

The BC Liberals committed in 2008 to fixing this supply problem where waste wood under control of the large forest companies is burned at the same time that smaller companies are looking for that wood for uses like pellet production.

Eight years later the tenure or licensing reform, or any other regulatory tools to address this absurd situation, still haven’t been implemented by the Christy Clark government. Meanwhile potential jobs related to the forestry sector literally go up in smoke.

It’s been five years since I originally highlighted this topic in the legislature calling for the forests minister to stop dithering and get on with making changes. Change that is possible if the Christy Clark government wanted it to happen.

Doing so will be good for the economy and good for peoples’ health.      

- Doug is the MLA for Stikine and the Official Opposition spokesperson for Energy and Mines.