Both the governing Liberals and opposition NDP vow to improve the quality of the forest inventory after the next provincial election.
Kicking off a province-wide tour in Prince George on Thursday, NDP forestry critic Norm Macdonald called the current inventory "inadequate" and said if elected his party would invest more than $20 million over four to five years to freshen up the information.
Nechako Lakes MLA John Rustad disputed the claim about the current inventory's inadequacy, but if the Liberals are granted a fourth consecutive term in office, his party would also re-inventory areas hit hard by the mountain pine beetle.
The NDP believe the inventory should have been re-done years ago because 75 per cent of the database is based on 30-year-old information.
"I don't think it's a debatable point, it's not an accurate inventory," Macdonald said during a break from meetings at the Civic Centre. "One of the commitments we'll make is to get it to a place where the oldest information we'll have is only 10 years old."
More up-to-date information could uncover new, viable fibre supplies for industry to exploit, according to the NDP.
"I think what we've found very often is that when industry does inventory and gets more accurate information they often find that there is more opportunity there than they thought," Macdonald said. "In any case, whether it's a supermarket or you're running a forest you have to know accurately what you have so you can informed decisions."
The Liberals also believe more information could lead to the discovery of more viable stands. Rustad pointed to a recent inventory update in the Quesnel area, which revealed 600,000 cubic metres a year in new supply.
Rustad, the parliamentary secretary to Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operation Minister Steve Thomson, said one reason there wasn't a complete re-inventory in recent years was due to the pine beetle epidemic.
"When you're in the middle of epidemic and the forest is being ravaged by the mountain pine beetle - if you were to go out and do an inventory in the middle of that epidemic . . . the data is obsolete the very next year," he said.
Rustad said the beetle-impacted areas are now ready to be re-assessed over the next five years.
Macdonald spent the day meeting with industry, labour and environmental groups as the NDP continues to flesh out its forestry priorities as part of its platform for the upcoming election. In addition to improving the inventory, he said his party is committed to an aggressive re-planting strategy over one million to two million hectares of land which have been ravaged by fire and disease. He also said his party would improve skills training for the workers in the industry.
Rustad also criticized the NDP's handling of the forestry file in the 1990s, claiming the government of the day created a needlessly expensive regulatory process. He said the rules cost the industry $1 billion.
Macdonald defended his party's actions when it was last in government, but acknowledged some mistakes were made.
"If you look back at the work that was done in the 1990s, an awful lot of what industry has based itself on is the work that was done then," Macdonald said. "There's no government that gets it all right, but if you look back to the '90s there were investments in the land base that have paid off, there were markets that we were losing because we lacked credibility in our management and that was rebuilt during the 90s."
Macdonald will continue his tour to Quesnel and Williams Lake on Friday and will travel throughout the Interior next week. He expects to be back in Prince George for another round of talks with stakeholders in March.
Republished from the Prince George Citizen
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