In order to make the new Babine Forest Products mill a go, the provincial government had to rework the forest licenses in the region.
Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training Minister Pat Bell said the province has promised to undertake four changes to provide an immediate increase to the timber supply for the new mill and six additional steps, which could have a positive impact on supply down the road.
Bell said he doesn't expect the changes announced Monday will negatively impact any of the other sawmills in the region as much of the new supply comes from stands previously considered unsustainable.
"It will primarily come out of stands that were very low-value stands that were not included in inventory in the past," Bell said, noting the supply became viable after it was examined by the special legislative committee led by Nechako Lakes MLA John Rustad.
The four-pronged plan includes:
n A new community forest tenure will be given to the Burns Lake Native Development Corp. in the amount of 150,000 cubic metres per year. The area-based tenure will be tied to the new mill.
n A new First Nations partnership will be formed in the coming weeks and will be awarded a tenure of 380,000 cubic metres per year for 100 per cent saw log grade wood plus an incremental bio-engery volume. It will also be tied to the new mill.
n A new area-based First Nations woodlands license will be created for 64,000 annual cubic metres.
n When the provincial legislature reconvenes, which isn't expected to happen until early 2013, the government will introduce legislation to allow volume-based tenures to be converted to area-based tenures.
"The benefit to area-based tenures is that companies have a long-term planning horizon around the types of activities that take place," Bell said.
Additionally, Bell said the province will reconvene the Lakes Timber Supply Area Planning Table, establish money for a long-term fertilization program, complete a Type 4 silviculture strategy, maximize the amount of dead volume being used, re-inventory the region and direct the chief forester to consider dropping the current increase in timber supply in the region so that more of it is available in the long term.
Hampton Affiliates CEO Steve Zika said the multi-point plan was critical to his company's decision to rebuild the facility. However the details of just how the new licenses will work still must be determined.
The province, the local First Nations communities and Hampton will spend the next 2 1/2 months working out those details before the company gives its final green light. Zika said the company needs to be assured there is enough wood to operate the mill for at least 15 years before construction will go ahead.
Burns Lake Native Development Corp. CEO Albert Gerow said his organization has yet to sign on with a bio-energy producer, but added negotiations are progressing with five suitors.