The value of woodlots under cap & trade

Professional forester hopes his experiences will help smaller woodlot owners

by Jim Algie

At 100,000 acres of bush and lake land, Haliburton Forest & Wildlife Reserve Ltd. doesn’t really fit the description of a farm woodlot. Rather, it is the largest, privately-owned forest in southern Ontario.

The company formed in 1962 to take over heavily-logged timberlands just south of Algonquin Park. Under direction by owner and forestry academic Peter Schleifenbaum, Haliburton was also the first forest operation in Canada that was certified under the Bonn-based international Forest Stewardship Council for environmental management standards. The company’s sawmill began production in 2009 and generates as much as four million board feet of finished lumber annually.

In addition to a range of tourism operations – including a restaurant and rental accommodations, hiking trails and tree top climbing facilities – on the property, the company markets a wide variety of lumber and wood products. The company produces everything from log homes to garden sheds, canoe paddles to wooden toys, and wood chips to a new venture in high grade charcoal, or biochar, used as an agricultural soil amendment.

General manager Malcolm Cecil-Cockwell is a professional forester who has lately taken over everyday management from Schleifenbaum. Cecil-Cockwell also has a financial stake in Haliburton. He rejects comparisons between his forest operation and agroforestry. Foresters tend to work with natural forest systems while crop farmers intervene more completely.

forwarder working

    Photo credit: Rob Stimpson, courtesy Haliburton Forest & Wildlife Reserve, photo

Cecil-Cockwell does express strong interest, however, in the future of environmentally sustainable forestry. He’s also particularly interested in the role of Ontario’s emerging carbon marketplace as a new source of revenue for the owners of private woodlands – both his own and those with smaller holdings.

A director of the provincial non-profit organization Forests Ontario, Cecil-Cockwell hopes the organization and his own continuing investigation of carbon issues for Ontario woodlots will benefit other woodlot owners. As it is, Cecil-Cockwell spends as much as a half day per week reviewing carbon market opportunities for his company. He has yet to make direct carbon project deals, however, despite proposals from at least two potential partners with whom he has signed non-disclosure agreements.

It’s a bit early to make investment decisions based on potential carbon revenue, Cecil-Cockwell said, because the regulatory framework remains incomplete. Ontario government officials responsible for forestry protocols under the province’s emerging cap-and-trade system for carbon credits don’t expect to make final recommendations until early 2018. Cecil-Cockwell hopes the forthcoming rules will benefit both large and small woodland owners.

“What we hope is, because we’re a very large, private land base, we’ll be able to provide some mutual learning opportunities,” Cecil-Cockwell said. “So what we learn and accomplish as a company we can share with Forests Ontario which, by extension, means it’s getting shared by woodlot owners across the province.” BF

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