Saturday, July 17, 2021, was an important day in the long history of our Company. Our two Timber Quotas in the C5 Forest Management Unit (FMU) were converted into a Forest Management Agreement (FMA) under the Crowsnest Forest Products name. The tenure conversion provides the security vital for our continued investment in the forests, in our company, in our people and in the surrounding communities. What affect will this have on the area’s forests and how will other forest values and land use activities be impacted?
Why an FMA?
Spray Lake Sawmills is a family-owned company and has operated in southern Alberta since 1943. Historically, most of the company’s harvesting rights has been under Alberta’s quota tenure system.
The conversion from a timber quota to a FMA transfers additional workload and planning responsibilities to the company which have historically been carried out by the Crown. This includes such responsibilities as the maintenance of a forest inventory and development of a long range management plan to the same provincially defined standards.
In exchange, the company receives greater security of a sustained wood supply, security that supports investment in the, forests, mill, employees and the surrounding communities.
Will a FMA Affect Other Resource Values?
The Forest Management Agreement area is Crown land outside of any parks or protected areas. Alberta will continue to plan, manage and administer other resource activities in the same manner as it always has. This includes both commercial and non-commercial activities. The company’s management of the FMA for timber does not preclude the right of others to travel, hunt, fish, or otherwise use the area for recreational purposes.
Other resource values are recognized in the South Saskatchewan Regional Plan (SSRP) and the various sub-regional integrated resource plans which cover the area. Spray Lake Sawmills will be working on a forest management plan for the C5 FMA. This plan will ensure consistency with the SSRP and include a public involvement process.
Planning for timber values cannot be done in isolation of the other resource values on the landscape. A cooperative, integrated approach to planning is critical to long term harmonization.
Operational Integration with Other Resource Values
A landscape level of planning that addresses other resource values is fundamental for forest management planning. Equally important is ensuring the objectives cited in the forest management plan flow through to the operational stages of harvest plan development and field delivery. Our harvest operations are conducted in such a way that respect other uses of the forest landscape.
Spray Lake Sawmills sustainable forest management system is third party certified under the international Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) certification system. SLS has also been recognized for high standards of operational plan development and implementation through an Emerald Award, the provincial Chamber of Commerce Triple Bottom Line Award and the Premier’s Award of Distinction.
These proven standards of performance provide a solid foundation for the ongoing management of the C5 Forest Management Agreement area.
With the conversion of Spray Lake Sawmills/Crowsnest Forest Products quota’s for a Forest Management Agreement comes a new list of company responsibilities. The company is now responsible for the maintenance of an accurate forest inventory, the development and implementation of a tree growth and yield program and the development of a long range forest management plan for the C5 Forest Management Unit. Additionally, the long range plan is renewed approximately every ten years; providing the opportunity to utilizing new technology and research.
These have historically been areas of Crown responsibility. With these changes, the existing C5 forest management plan will be updated at the company’s expense. Inventory and management planning processes will follow specified government standards and be subject to government review and approval.
Forest management is a highly regulated and controlled field of practice. There are numerous acts and regulations which govern practice within the forest industry; the Forests Act and the Timber Management Regulation being the two primary documents. In addition, there a provincial policy documents, which touch on almost every facet of forest management. The Timber Harvest Planning and Operating Ground Rules is a key document in this regard.
Once plans are prepared they are submitted to the Agriculture and Forestry (AAF) for review and approval. AAF act as the one-window for this process, bringing together input from several different provincial government agencies. After the appropriate approvals are received and operations commence, inspections are carried our to ensure compliance.
Forest Management Planning
There are several levels of management planning which occur prior to the harvesting of the timber. The general progression is to start with a broad scale landscape level of planning (forest management plan or FMP) and proceed progressively down to a finer scale of detail. The planning hierarchy is spelled out in the Forest Management Agreements and detailed on our website.
Following the FMP is the General Development Plan, the Forest Harvest Plans and the Annual Operating Plan.
Landscape level planning typically covers a span of 20 years and operational planning as much as 5 years.
Public Involvement Process
One of the requirements of the company’s FMAs and of Alberta’s forest management planning process is the inclusion of a meaningful opportunity for public review and input into the long range forest management plan. Spray Lake Sawmills has a formalized process for public review and input at all planning levels including a process specific to the development of the forest management plan.
Our process includes open houses, stakeholder advisory committees, workshops, newsletter and advertisements.
Rights Over the Land
Alberta retains public land ownership on lands subject to a Forest Management Agreement (FMA). A FMA is a 20 year agreement between the Province of Alberta, as represented by the Minister of Agriculture and Forestry, and a Forest Company. The FMA grants a company rights to enter upon Crown land for the primary purpose of growing and harvesting timber. The security of tenure allows a company like Spray Lake Sawmills to invest in timber inventories and long range planning. The security of tenure also gives the company the confidence to invest in the forest, mill, its employees and in the surrounding communities.
The Minister reserves all land rights not specifically granted to the company. This includes such things as wildlife management, recreational use, energy activity, grazing and trapping.