This month, a wood pellet company acquired land near the community of Enterprise to build the territory’s first wood pellet mill. A second company has developed a timber harvesting plan with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to supply the mill. That company is allowed to harvest 126,400 cubic metres of timber annually. In the first year of harvesting, the trees will average an age of 98 years old.
“There is this assumption that the trees are being replanted,” Stashwick said, but it is often not the case.
“You cannot assume that all biomass is carbon neutral. That would be a very serious error.”
Trees may regenerate naturally
The N.W.T. forest management division is still developing its regeneration strategy. Inventory and planning forester Lisa Smith is hopeful that harvested areas will grow back naturally, and planting trees will not be necessary.
“We are anticipating that a lot of the areas are going to regenerate naturally. The areas that are being looked at for timber harvesting are typically more productive areas,” said Smith.
“After the harvesting occurs we will monitor these areas for quite a number of years to make sure forest regeneration is happening.”
The plan is for the harvested areas to resemble areas affected by a forest fire. About five per cent of trees will be left standing to help encourage regeneration. The government will collect a levy from the harvester for each metre harvested. That money will be used to monitor the progress of regeneration and plant new trees if required.
“We want to have a chance to evaluate how these blocks are regenerating. It will be evident within several years whether or not the block has new growth in it and if some sort of intervention is required,” said Smith.
She says the government did not retool any of its forestry regulations in the lead up to the territory’s first wood pellet mill.
“The regulations are totally adequate to manage this level of timber harvesting,” Smith said.
“Although we haven’t seen this level of timber harvesting that is planned in the Northwest Territories before, it is still very, very small compared to all other provinces. We didn’t require any changes to our legislation.”
The N.W.T.’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources expects spruce trees to regenerate to one metre in height within 10-15 years after harvest.