The Alberta government has put the call out for companies to submit proposals to harvest timber within two Forest Management Units (FMUs) — one of which encompasses most of the County of Barrhead and Westlock County — over a five-year period.
The original Request for Proposals (RFP) was put out by Alberta Agriculture, Forestry and Rural Economic Development in early December. The closing date for proposals to be submitted to the province is Jan. 31, 2022.
According to that RFP, the province is considering the sale of a commercial timber permit that would allow the successful bidder to harvest up to 500 hectares of public land or no more than 100,000 cubic metres of timber per “timber year,” whichever is reached first. (A timber year, incidentally, runs from May 1 to April 30.)
The timber would be harvested from FMU WO1 and WO2, which encompasses Mayerthorpe, Barrhead, Onoway, Spruce Grove and Stony Plain.
The entire timber permit area is approximately 110,000 hectares in size, though only 2,500 hectares would be harvested as per the RFP. The exact locations where harvesting would take place are undetermined.
The RFP, which also outlines the requirements that applicants must meet, states that the sale of this commercial timber permit is in line with the Forest Jobs Action Plan, which is aimed at supporting “a sustainable, long-term supply of forest jobs and fibre access for Alberta’s forest industry.”
During their Jan. 19 council meeting, Woodlands County councillors passed a motion to provide a letter of support to Alexander Contracting and Construction LP, which is owned and operated by the Alexander First Nation and will be applying for the commercial timber permit.
The motion also states that the county will provide a letter of support to any other company that is bidding for the commercial timber permit and meets the requirements of the RFP.
The matter was brought forward by Woodlands County economic development officer Bert Roach, who noted that as part of the weighting of applications, special consideration is given to applicants who can demonstrate the social benefits of awarding the permit to them.
Thus, a letter of support from communities and municipal governments in the FMUs would aid an applicant’s bid.
Coun. Alan Deane, who noted this issue came up at the economic development committee meeting on Jan. 18, expressed some concern around who would be responsible for communicating with the public over the details of this commercial timber permit.
Deane said he would like the county to be a partner in that communication process but was concerned that it would be left up to the county to inform residents about the harvesting operations that would be going ahead.
"If we try to do it ourselves, there’s going to be questions that residents have which we can’t answer,” he said.
Deane suggested that the county should get in contact with the successful applicant, whomever that will be, and make sure they will be doing some kind of public consultation.
Coun. Devin Williams also pressed Roach to provide council for a better map of the FMUs being harvested, noting that the map provided didn’t indicate where Goose Lake was located and there would probably be a lot of people living in that area who would be affected.
Coun. Peter Kuelken agreed with Williams, noting that the permit will definitely have an impact on the local area, and if councillors had a more defined map, “it sure would help us.”
Roach indicated that he had reached out to the provincial representatives to get a better map but hadn’t heard from them yet. He said he would continue trying, but also reach out to the company submitting the application.
On a final note, the Barrhead Leader has also learned that Millar Western Products is partnering with Backwoods Energy — a wholly-owned company of the Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation — to submit a proposal.