The smoke in the skies over Cumberland, specifically from forestry-related burning, could get a chance to clear one day.
Molly Hudson, director of sustainability, and Colin Koszman, land use forester of Mosaic Forest Management, appeared before council in December to update the village on the company.
“We’re always happy to talk about our activities,” Hudson said. “Our company is really based on the tenets of responsible stewardship.”
The company operates on some Crown land and on a tree farm licence, as well as privately owned land, as is the case with Cumberland forests. Most of their operations take place in second- or third-generation forests.
Hudson alluded to different certification standards the company is working toward, such as ISO 14001 for environmental management, as well as its efforts on Indigenous relations. She also talked about carbon storage from forests.
“Forest management has a really important part to play in climate solutions,” she said.
One of the longstanding issues in the Cumberland area, raised at previous council meetings, has been burning, though Hudson said the company is making progress by reducing the level of pile burning by about 10 per cent a year over the last few years. The province, she added, is moving toward having waste chipped rather than burned by the end of this decade.
“We take our good neighbour commitment very seriously,” she said.
Hudson touched on community projects the company supports. As well, Mosaic is working with researchers at institutions such as Vancouver Island University to look at watershed protection. This work has included other partners such as United Riders of Cumberland. It has led to a new project called the Perseverance Watershed Initiative. It includes the Village of Cumberland, among others.
“It really brings that collaboration to the next level,” she said.
Koszman expanded on efforts to manage wildfire risk, especially during the latest hot, dry summer, saying they made it through the season though did face some campfire-related issues.
Regarding harvest planning and road building, he talked about measures to mitigate some concerns, such as using a vegetable oil product rather than petroleum for road work.
Council had a chance to ask questions after the presentation, on matters such as markets for logs. Hudson responded they sell to “willing buyers,” though local mills do have the first right. Another issue was around fire breaks and other measures to reduce wildfire risk. One outcome of the discussion was a suggestion for the company and village to share more data.
Coun. Jesse Ketler expressed concern not so much over Mosaic’s actions as a company but with provisions of the Private Managed Forest Lands Act, saying she would like to see changes at the provincial level, particularly making more actions mandatory rather than voluntary for companies.
“I appreciate that you guys go above and beyond,” she said.
She also pointed out forests are becoming carbon emitters because of factors such as forestry practices and fires.
“We need to start thinking differently about how we treat and manage our forests,” she said.
Ketler called for more selective logging and less reliance on monocultures in new forests.
Hudson responded that the company operates at standards higher than called for in the provincial legislation for private land. She also said many of the concerns such as monoculture reflect practices in the B.C. Interior rather than on Vancouver Island.
“The choices we make on the landscape are for reasons more than just timber production,” she added.