Column: Outlook is short-term positive for Cariboo region

As described below, I am assuming the Cariboo region with its diverse forest industry complex will mirror most of the predictions.

As described below, I am assuming the Cariboo region with its  diverse forest industry complex will mirror most of the predictions of the recent article by Jim Stirling: Outlook is positive for Canadian timber industry.

The International Wood Markets group predicts the five year lumber demand (2014 to 2019)  will be reasonably stable with some saw log shortages but increased value of lumber.

Part of the shortage of logs comes from Quebec’s decision to reduce harvest levels to meet conservation goals.

This is contrasted to B.C. where the Liberal government is considering removing areas of timber currently under protection to help meet the fibre shortages due to beetle infestations.

The increased market in Asian countries will also help stabilize lumber markets and no doubt help Canada in its ongoing discussions on the softwood lumber agreement with the U.S.

The biomass market is expected to keep increasing due to the resolve in Europe and Asia to use wood pellets to replace coal fired power.

Cheap natural gas in B.C. encourages the export of wood pellets to countries without these resources.

Wood pellets continue to be a good use of residual fibre from conventional sawmill operations.

The trick is to secure access to a steady supply of low-grade fibre at prices acceptable to major licensees and the biomass industry.

The provincial government has been making some recent legislative changes to help the respective industries to have a win, win outcome of future negotiations.

Most of the  information presented by Stirling is supported by the three biomass reports from BC Hydro.

“Wood based biomass energy potential of British Columbia. The Cariboo region forest industry is described as very large with 14 sawmills, two veneer plants, one OSB plant, two pulp mills, two pellet plants a board plant and two power plants.”

The report describes the possible scenarios on the use of residual fibre resulting from the impending saw log shortages.

“All of the residual fibre consumers will either resort to roadside residual fibre to meet their needs, harvest and consume pulp logs or potentially switch to alternative sources of energy (such as natural gas in some power boilers) or curtail operations.”

The industry has already responded to the increased pulp log percentage by building a plant in Quesnel dedicated to the ever increasing switch from saw logs to pulp logs because of the pine beetle attack.

Stirling also introduces the implications of the recent Supreme Court’s decision in the Tsilhqot’in Nation claim and its potential impact. The Cariboo region could be impacted the most.

As he points out, most First Nations groups are wisely holding their counsel and assessing their options.

Stirling ends with this comment: “But what is clear from the court’s decision is that a failure to show deference and respect for First Nations on land access and use issues will have its consequences.” – February 2015, Logging and Sawmilling Journal.

Jim Hilton is a professional agrologist and forester who has lived and worked in the Cariboo Chilcotin for the past 40 years. Now retired, Hilton still volunteers his skills with local community forests organizations.

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