COLUMNS: Export of logs and wood waste responsible for job losses

During the open line show on CBC radio Feb. 27 most of the people phoning in were against the export of raw logs.

During the open line show on CBC radio Feb. 27 most of the people phoning in were against the export of raw logs as was the guest,  Ben Parfitt, who has written extensively on the topic.

For more information, I recommend Mr. Parfitt’s  June 2007 article Wood Waste and Log Exports’ on the BC coast.

He points out that most log exports come off the private forestlands on the coast and companies like TimberWest Forest have deliberately divested themselves of manufacturing facilities to become market loggers and exporters.

It is one thing for companies to export logs from their private land but it is inconceivable that the government of the day in 2006 signed over 350,000 cubic metres from public forestlands that could be exported from B.C.’s mid coast.

The government and log export companies rationalize their actions by pointing out that anyone wishing to export logs must first notify prospective domestic buyers that such logs are available and if not purchased are deemed “surplus” to domestic needs and may then be exported.

Since 38 B.C. wood-processing facilities have ceased operations since 2000 there are few local companies available to bid on the logs.

Compounding the problem is that raw logs are not subjected to duties under the soft wood lumber agreement.

So if local companies buy the logs and make lumber it will be taxed if they want to ship it to the U.S.

In addition to the increased  export of logs there has been an increase in the number of usable logs left behind on the logging sites.

Most of these logs are Hemlock which  have a high moisture content and are best used at local mill sites.

The logs left behind are recorded in the government data base and a nominal stumpage  payment is made for leaving them behind for burning.

The end result is more pressure on logging second-growth and third growth stands or patches of old growth which are more profitable.

The end result of the export of raw logs and burning of low value logs is an ever increasing loss of jobs,  estimated to be 3,100 in 2000 and rising to 5,750 in 2007.

Mr. Parfitt has a number of suggestions for keeping logs and  jobs in this province.

1.) Impose high fees on all logs destined for export. i.e. equivalent to the 15 per cent levied by the U.S. on our soft wood lumber.

2.) Ensure there is a stringent and transparent process that truly encourages domestic mills to bid on and buy logs prior to export.

3.) Demand the federal government impose the same requirements on companies logging private forest lands.

4.) Declare a phased in end to all log exports from B.C.

To reduce log waste he proposes:

1).  Imposing tough utilization standards that requires these logs be processed.

2.) Require forest companies to make minimal levels of investment in mills in exchange for continued access to crown timber.

3.) Require companies to process hemlock trees or face reductions in logging quotas.

Ben Parfitt will be in Williams Lake March 16 as part of a northern forestry tour.  Look for details in the next few weeks.

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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