Opinion

Log exports provide the foundation for growth

The nay sayers can’t see the forest for the trees, condemning governments actions on log exports.

Pulp mills and two-by-fours do not appear to be working for us in the Pacific Northwest. Does it not make sense for the best log to be sold at the highest price? It just so happens that currently the best price paid for logs is offshore.

History has shown us that by shipping raw logs to overseas markets a market for lumber soon follows. That is what happened to the Japanese market and our increase in lumber exports to China proves my point.

Due to our wood profile, our contracting community must get the top dollar for our prime sawlogs so that they can afford to harvest the lower quality sawlogs and pulp. None of the logging contractors are proponents of continuing log exports and would prefer to see the wood used locally, however, investors with large suitcases of cash aren’t exactly stampeding to the Pacific Northwest to build multi million dollar sawmills.

Since the bankruptcy of New Skeena in 2001, the large TFL was sold to Coast Tsimshian Resources Limited Partnership, a Port Simpson-based company owned by the Lax Kw’alaams First Nations. Coast Tsmishian Resources has a forest management agreement with Brinkman Forest Products to assist in managing the TFL 1. Due to the length of the bankruptcy proceedings the timber license had a huge undercut. The forest minister issued two non-renewable forest licenses; one license to the Kitsumkalum First Nation Band and the other to the Kitselas First Nation Band.

Existing local contractors had the knowledge, the equipment, the experience, and skilled crews to work in the forest but no tenure to harvest. All three First Nation license holders currently contract to Terrace and area contractors.

To date, this has proven to be a very synergistic arrangement, providing local employment for both contractors and First Nation peoples.

All three of these new-generation licensees are members of the North west Loggers Association and participate in advancing our agenda for the North West area.

In continuing dialog with members of these First Nation Forest product companies, their future goals are longer, more sustainable tenures, and naturally increased employment for their community members. Their intent is to be a full and successful participant in the industry. And we have jobs.

Smaller amounts of money are being invested in the area and more jobs are being created. We now have two companies in the Terrace area and one in Prince Rupert that have debarkers preparing the wood for overseas markets. Deals are being struck for more logs and custom cut lumber.

Independent small sawmillers are able to operate because they have access to fibre, something that would be unheard of if the area based forests were controlled by a single large tenure holder.

One of the by products of milling operations or custom cutting logs for export is the waste left behind. As well, due to our timber profile, we have a larger than normal amount of waste wood left in the bush. The government’s policies have been encouraging methods for the waste residual and by products to be used. Pellet plants are one such manufacturing facility.

A biocoal plant recently broke ground. It will cost about $30 million and will be by far the largest investment in the Terrace region in well over a decade. It will need approximately 300,000 to 350,000 tonnes of raw product a year and create about 70 to 100 direct and indirect jobs.

The phone rings once again. Trucks are needed to move wood. Operators are needed to run equipment in the bush.

Log exports have allowed the small sawmillers to get logs to grow their businesses and have become a vehicle for the First Nations in the area to enter into Forest industry in the province.

Bill Sauer is the executive director of the North West Loggers Association in Terrace.

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