Forest Practices Audit Finds Northwood Did Not Comply with Code Court allows audit to be released

VICTORIA – Northwood Pulp and Timber Ltd.’s Houston Division did not comply with the Forest Practices Code in maintaining and deactivating roads. Northwood also caused excessive soil disturbance by logging during wet weather, although this complied with the code, according to a Forest Practices Board audit released today following a court ruling.

A B.C. Court of Appeal judge ruled today that the board can release the report without waiting for the results of Northwood’s appeal of a B.C. Supreme Court decision. That decision confirmed the board’s right to make the comments about excessive soil disturbance thast appear in the audit report.

Northwood’s timber harvesting and road construction complied with the code in all significant respects. “However, the audit found rutting and excessive soil compaction had occurred in ten cutblocks,” said board chair Keith Moore. “This was caused by logging equipment operating during wet conditions, and could have been prevented. The frequency and extent of this problem will affect soil productivity and will have long-term impacts on tree establishment and growth. The board found that although these practices complied with the code, they were not consistent with sound forest practices.”

The board has recommended that Northwood implement several measures to prevent these problems during future harvesting operations. The board also recommended that government change the code to prevent forest practices that cause concentrated rutting and excessive soil compaction and reduce soil productivity.

The audit also identified instances of non-compliance involving inadequate road maintenance on many of the roads examined. This included crushed or blocked culverts and disrupted natural drainage patterns. The impact of each instance was not significant on its own because of the gentle terrain involved, but the frequency of the non-compliance was considered significant. “Deficient road maintenance creates the potential for safety hazards that could affect anyone using these roads,” said Moore.

Northwood’s road deactivation work did not comply with code requirements. While there wasn’t a problem with the actual work, the audit found that it was not carried out as shown in the approved plans. Roads that were supposed to be deactivated weren’t. Active roads were reported as deactivated, while other roads were deactivated that were not identified in the plan.

“The lack of consistency between what was planned and what was actually carried out makes it impossible for government agencies or the public to know which roads are accessible. This could create a loss of public access and a safety issue,” said Moore.

The board also made a number of recommendations to Northwood, concerning the maintenance and deactivation problems identified in the audit. These include reviewing, developing and implementing operating procedures for inspecting roads and carrying out maintenance work, as well as ensuring that all planned and completed road deactivation is identified in forest development plans and carried out.

The release of this report was delayed as the Forest Practices Board faced its first court challenge on what it can report publicly in a compliance audit. Northwood obtained a court order halting publication of the audit report in June 1999 and challenged the board’s reporting rights in B.C. Supreme Court. A Nov. 30, 1999, judgement, based on a hearing held in October, rejected Northwood’s argument. Northwood has appealed that decision. However, a Court of Appeal judge ruled today the Board could release the report without waiting for Northwood’s appeal to be decided. The appeal is not expected to proceed for several months.

Forest Licence A16828 includes operating areas north and south of Houston, B.C. The audit examined the forest planning and field activities related to timber harvesting and road construction, maintenance and deactivation carried out between July 1996 and July 1997. The forest licence has since been taken over by Canfor as part of its buyout of Northwood Inc.

The licence was selected for audit from the population of major forest licences within the Prince Rupert forest region. It was selected randomly and not on the basis of location or level of performance. The area of operations covers about 600,000 hectares from the northeast side of Babine Lake to the Tahtsa Reach on Ootsa Lake.

The Forest Practices Board is B.C.’s independent watchdog for sound forest practices. The board provides British Columbians with objective and independent assessments of the state of forest planning and practices in the province, compliance with the code, and the achievement of its intent.

The board’s main roles, established under the Forest Practices Code, are auditing forest practices, undertaking investigations in response to public complaints, investigating any code-related forestry issues, participating in administrative reviews and appeals and providing reports on board activities, findings and recommendations.

  • Investigating public complaints.
  • Auditing government enforcement of the code.
  • Auditing forest practices of government and licence holders on public lands.
  • Undertaking special investigations of code-related forestry issues.
  • Participating in administrative reviews and appeals.
  • Providing reports on board activities, findings and recommendations.

Keith Moore,

Forest Practices Board
Phone: (250) 387-7964

Cathy Piazza,
Communications Officer

Forest Practices Board
Phone: (250) 387-7964