Volume vs. area

In an attempt to help the forest industry get back on its feet in the wake of the mountain pine beetle epidemic, B.C.’s Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations is proposing to change how it deals out rights to cut down trees by shifting from primarily “volume-based” to “area-based” allotments.

At a glance, this change may seem like a small matter of semantics. It’s not. The final decision will have important implications not just for B.C.’s forests but also for the jobs and revenues that depend on them.

The government currently awards a mix of two types of forest tenures to companies and communities, but volume-based tenures dominate the landscape in the Interior, the area hit hardest by the mountain pine beetle. Under a volume-based tenure, companies compete for the highest value timber within a timber supply area. In an area-based tenure (also known as a tree-farm license, each company is guaranteed access to an area of forest. Further, these two types of tenures may be “replaceable” (renewable every 10-15 years) or “non-replaceable” (non-renewable). Sixty per cent of B.C. forest tenures are volume-based, of which two-thirds are replaceable and one-third is non-replaceable.