COLUMN: Achieving contractor sustainability during uncertain times

With the recent mill closures and market problems, contractors are feeling the impacts

During a recent CBC talk show about the proposed tax on exported logs on the coast it was apparent that the logging contractors and truck drivers would likely be impacted by this proposal.

Most of the people phoning in supported the tax despite the rational of the guest representing the truckers and contractors.

With the recent mill closures and market problems, contractors across the province are also feeling the impacts.

On the plus side the recent recommendations from a lengthy logging contractor sustainability review should be a good starting point to solving some long standing issues.

Problems have included an aging work force, long delays in processing plans and permits by government agencies and difficult relationships between contractors and licensees.

Some of the recommendations involved the government working with contractors and licensees to help improve the overall efficiency of the industry.

Read More: Implications of reducing stumpage to help companies during poor markets

For example; Encourage licensees to support contractor purchases of equipment and work with industry associations to develop best practice models and options.

The government should also work with licenses and contractors on planning and permitting in order to schedule work for 12 months ahead as well as taking the necessary steps to facilitate this through improvements to the permitting process.

Finally the Ministry of Forests should gather information on the quality of contractor/licensee relationships and published it annually.

Government was also to encourage BC Timber Sales to offer a greater number of smaller blocks within its mix of blocks for auction as well as acquire the most advanced version of LiDAR (2.0) and make province-wide topographical and inventory data freely available to all partners on the Crown land base.

The B.C. government is currently working on a report that will be completed by Dan Miller, a former premier and provincial cabinet minister who was hired back in August as a third-party facilitator.

Miller will be responsible for bringing the province’s contractor and licensee associations together to identify where there is consensus, in which case whether or not action can be taken on those recommendations, and where there may be differences of opinion.

If readers want more details they can read the following article by S. J. Trotton, Achieving Contractor Sustainability.

The next stage is the implementation of the new approaches with the government and industry starting with management and proceeding down to the field staff.

Read More: Restoring forestry in B.C.

Another recommendation is for the British Columbia’s Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development to work with contractor associations in developing a government/industry funded training program beginning in 2019 and the program be delivered in the field around the province.

I would hope that any training would involve some sort of apprenticeship and summer work experience for both industry and government students.

While I had some valuable training courses during my time with the Forest Service, my hands on experience following retirement, handling logs and lumber as well as maintaining equipment as part of my portable sawmill business gave me valuable insights as to what contractors do on a daily basis.

Jim Hilton is a professional agrologist and forester who has lived and worked in the Cariboo Chilcotin region for the past 40 years.

Now retired, Hilton still volunteers his skills with local community forests organizations.

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