Pellet plant recently completed at Terrace’s only sawmill uses waste wood to create a new revenue stream. (Skeena Sawmills)

B.C. VIEWS: Sawmill struggles as NDP boosts northwest log exports

Skeena Sawmills comeback threatened by B.C. government

If there’s a bright spot in the struggling B.C. forest industry, it’s Skeena Sawmills.

Since new investors took over the 59-year-old operation from West Fraser in 2011, they have poured millions into restarting and upgrading Terrace’s only sawmill, fixing old buildings and retooling to handle smaller second-growth timber from the economically marginal forest stands that are left in the region.

They’ve invested more millions into building a pellet plant for biofuel exports. They’re working with the industry-federal agency FPInnovations to use log scanning technology that helps mills detect flaws inside logs to get a viable lumber product out of otherwise uneconomic timber.

They’ve endured shutdowns due to log shortages, high costs and union demands. And now they face a new threat – drastically increased log exports in the North Coast region that siphon off even more of the scarce high-grade timber.

That’s right, despite Premier John Horgan’s endless rant against exporting “raw logs” and jobs, despite mill shutdowns across the province due to jacked-up stumpage taxes on the coast and falling timber supply in the Interior, the export limit has been doubled in the Northwest Interior region around Kitimat, Terrace, Smithers and Hazelton. Similar cabinet orders increase export limits for the vast North Coast, Cassiar and Haida Gwaii regions, apparently so Indigenous communities in the region can make money shipping the best “raw logs” overseas.

RELATED: Skeena Sawmills spends millions to modernize

RELATED: Syrian refugees find work at Terrace sawmill

Skeena Sawmills president Roger Keery sent a blistering letter to Horgan and Forests Minister Doug Donaldson in late July. He calculated that more than half of the Northwest’s actual log harvest was exported before the NDP government raised the limit from 20 per cent to 40 per cent.

“The largest tenure holder in the area is B.C. Timber Sales [a provincial agency], and with this increase in exportable volumes, the government will in effect be the largest log exporter,” Keery wrote. “We are shocked and disappointed by the changes to the [cabinet orders allowing exports], particularly given the many assurances we received during the review process that government was committed to supporting domestic manufacturing and investment.”

In response to my questions about the letter, the ministry issued a statement that quibbled with its numbers, noting the new quotas exclude export of cedar and cypress, which are now banned from export as logs.

(Full letter, ministry response below)

“We have committed verbally and in writing to Skeena that we are monitoring the impact of the [cabinet orders] and if the objectives government outlined are not being achieved, we will revisit the policies,” the ministry stated.

The statement makes no reference to why log export limits have been increased. Ellis Ross, former chief of the Haisla Nation and now B.C. Liberal MLA for Skeena, offered his take.

“What surprises me is after years of complaining and campaigning, the NDP quietly increased log exports in the Northwest,” Ross told me. “I know First Nations depend on log exports for revenues, but the problem is that our local sawmill employs First Nations as well. In choosing to increase log exports, our local sawmill is put in an even more difficult position.”

Horgan has repeatedly stepped in to assist Donaldson with the difficulties of the forests ministry. The much-criticized forest fire recovery programs have been transferred to the public safety ministry. Former B.C. Liberal MLA Blair Lekstrom was hired to extract the province from a secret deal to set aside vast new areas for caribou protection. Delta North MLA Ravi Kahlon was appointed as parliamentary secretary for forests.

Now this.

Skeena Sawmills.donaldson.j… by Tom Fletcher on Scribd

Forests Ministry Response A… by Tom Fletcher on Scribd

Tom Fletcher is B.C. legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press Media. Email: tfletcher@blackpress.ca


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

How Parksville’s St. Anne’s became a place homeless people would actually go

After opening as a ‘pray and stay’ vigil, church decided to stay open nightly

Robert Barron: Winter can be hard, but it brings back good memories

I would carefully poke the handle of the shovel through the snow until it bumped into a solid object

VIU professor concerned about myths around insect apocalypse

Jasmine Janes’s work published in peer-reviewed journal BioScience

Police remind drivers they have legal obligations when it comes to collisions

No spike in 911 calls to Victoria Police due to snow

Despite flurry of cancellations, BC Ferries record remains way off

Adverse weather cancelled more than 900 ferry sailings in 2012

Kids across Canada more at risk of hospitalization from flu this season: doctor

Dr. Theresa Tam said influenza B does not usually peak until February or later

BC Ferries hybrid ships set to arrive in Victoria today

The battery-operated vessels will take over smaller routes

Know how to spot counterfeit bills

Campbell River RCMP concerned obvious phony bills are fooling people

Young Island skiers earn podium finishes at first Teck BC Cup of 2020

Saanich student-athlete earns two bronze medals in U18 girls category

Nanaimo theft victim confronts suspects with baseball bat

Nanaimo RCMP seek identify of two people alleged to have used a stolen credit card

Esquimalt arsonist sentenced to two years in jail, thanks police, defence lawyer and taxpayers

Wei Li was convicted of intentionally lighting his rental property on fire in October 2017

Coroner’s Service investigating circumstances of senior’s death in Campbell River

Body found on beach in Ocean Grove; not deemed a suspicious death

Digital payment options on horizon for BC Transit in Greater Victoria, timeline unclear

BC Transit is ‘taking the time to get it right,’ says a spokesperson

Most Read