Woodlot owner organizations are “about making change happen,” according to Canadian Federation of Woodland Owners (CFWO) President Peter deMarsh.
He told the recent Federation of Nova Scotia Woodlands Owners’ annual meeting that the CFWO is working on developing a carbon credit program—for which there is no government support—to reward small woodland owners for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
But deMarsh insisted it will need a forest certification program for small woodlands to support it. “It doesn’t make sense to have a carbon credit program without first having a forest certification program.”
Certification provides assurances that wood products receive a third party audit guaranteeing it was grown and harvested according to certain accepted standards of silviculture and forest management practices.
deMarsh noted the CFWO has put a lot of effort into lobbying for changes to income tax rules. British Columbia woodland owners had a big spike in income when they had to salvage forest fiber from trees killed by the Mountain Pine Beetle.
The national federation devised an RRSP program to recover their silviculture costs. But, he said, there was no support from the federal government and its civil service because they consider it to be an income-averaging scheme.
They compared woodland owners to racehorse breeders and novel writers who also have income spikes and expressed the view, ‘If we have to give it to you; we have to give it to others,’ deMarsh explained.
He said there is zero interest at the federal level in funding silviculture programs for small woodlots. “There is a big bias in favor of large corporate operations.”
deMarsh did point out that Ottawa does have some interest in doing a better job sharing research by the Canadian Forestry Service (CFS) with private woodland owners. The CFWO is working to establish a process with the CFS to meet with federal forestry researchers.
He noted the Quebec Association of Woodland Owners did a study that showed a huge impact in revenue earned and jobs created by small woodland operations.
deMarsh hopes ultimately to extend the Quebec study to show other provinces and the federal government that “4,000 quarter-time jobs are just as important as 1,000 in a big, corporate project.”
He added the small woodland sector is not having much progress finding new markets for its production as the number of active woodland owners continues to decline.
Small woodland operations need public support for good, sustainable forest management that conserves public water sources and protects water quality, he said. Financial support programs across Canada, however, are under pressure due to government budget and tax cuts.
In 10 years there have been no changes in the tax system and forest extension services are under pressure. deMarsh noted the continuing decline in attendance at woodland owners meetings. “We have been through 10 tough years.”
Yet he saw reasons for hope with an increased demand for forest fiber that resulted in a marked increase in the demand for production. But at the same time, access to Crown land is increasingly restricted. “Our position as sellers of timber will continue to improve.”
The CFWO president believed that will coincide with aging and retiring small woodland owners who will have less interest in selling their wood.
Changes in income tax policy could help, deMarsh insisted. “We need to go back and clarify it so people understand what they can or cannot do.”
Norway and France both allow their woodland owners to spread their revenues over 40 years as their forests regenerate to harvest. “I am really hopeful we might see some rapid changes.”
He also hoped to see government support for a carbon credit program and expanded wood product utilization. “We need people in our associations that are enthusiastic and excited about owning woodland. The question is how can we get more young people to participate.”
deMarsh urged more use of social media and the Internet to encourage more youthful participation in woodlot owner associations and meetings. He said Quebec has started a youth council for young woodland owners to meet and share their interests.
deMarsh praised the Federation of Nova Scotia Woodlands Owners for “your tenacity and your work.”