New woodlot for Blue Mountain in Maple Ridge

Kwantlen First Nation is applying to cut tree on Blue Mountain in east Maple Ridge

Kwantlen Band wants to cut up to 5

Kwantlen Band wants to cut up to 5

Blue Mountain will be busier next year when the Kwantlen First Nation starts its woodlot, allowing it to cut up to 5,200 cubic metres of timber a year.

The plan for woodlot No. 0086, comprising 800 hectares, is now before the public and, if approved, later this year will become the third woodlot on the mountain, in addition to Blue Mountain Woodlot and BCIT Woodlot.

And soon to follow could be a new gravel pit at the north end of 256th Street, proposed by Katzie First Nation and Canadian Aggregates Inc.

The band and the company have made a joint application for a quarrying, sand and gravel operation on 79 hectares to the Ministry of Agriculture and Lands.

The application is currently in the review stage, awaiting comment from government agencies.

Jim Bradshaw, with the Blue Mountain-Kanaka Creek Conservation Group, pointed out the new woodlot will cut the same amount of trees as the Blue Mountain Woodlot, but do so within a larger area.

“It’s got double the acreage than [Blue Mountain] Woodlot 0038 and the same allowable cut. I guess it’s less of a problem than 0038.”

He said logging could start first beneath the B.C. Hydro powerlines, in concert with the twinning of those lines.

He’s also happy with the company Infinity-Pacific Stewardship Group, which will be running the woodlot under contract with the Kwantlen.

“They seem more willing to discuss things.”

The conservation group is requesting that a wildlife corridor be preserved along the upper reaches of Kanaka Creek.

Bradshaw, though, is more concerned with the plans for a gravel operation at the north end of 256th Street. “It’s going to cross a lot of creeks. We’re a little concerned about that,” he added.

“We just hope they do it in a responsible way. It sounds like the Kwantlen sure are.”

Katzie First Nation is also discussing a First Nations woodlands forest licence, but there’s been no formal application to the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations.

A First Nations woodland licence is a long-term licence for a certain area, usually larger than a woodlot, that allows exclusive rights to logging to First Nations and the ability to practise aboriginal stewardship.

The operation of the woodlot will be similar to those already on the mountain, with trees cut in blocks of between two to five hectares.

Within those cut blocks, clumps of trees will remain to provide wildlife habitat, shade, and a seed source for reforestation, said Chris Gruenwald, with Infinity-Pacific Stewardship Group.

The plan is currently in the 60-day public review stage, which concludes Dec. 31. Its first term would run from 2012 to 2021.

About 15 jobs could result from the woodlot, which should earn a profit of between $10 and $15 per cubic metre of timber. However, a woodlot doesn’t have to harvest that amount every year. Depending on prices, it could cut five years worth of timber in one year.

Infinity Pacific would contract out the cutting to a logging company, which in turn would sell the wood to nearby mills.

Any wood superfluous to that could be exported to China as raw logs. The overseas market for hemlock is good and most of the woodlot produces hemlock.

“We’re working with Kwantlen to employ some of their members to provide training as part of the agreement,” Gruenwald said.

Prices for exported raw logs are in the $80 to $85 per cubic metre range, compared to only $55 paid by local mills.

“It’s not unique to forestry. It seems like all these industries seem to having these challenges.”

Kwantlen also wants to operate a second woodlot or a First Nations Woodland Licence, another type of harvesting licence, within its traditional territory, but not necessarily on Blue Mountain.