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.

BC legislature

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Oak Bay neighbourhoods rocked by blasting activity

Oak Bay seeks new rock blasting bylaw regarding ‘continuous’ noise

Gathering marks 10 years since nearly 500 asylum-seekers landed off Victoria shore

The 492 people fleeing violence, war crimes and genocide in Sri Lanka were detained for months

VicPD responding to robbery suspect barricaded in building on Cook Street

Residents are asked to avoid the 2300-block of Cook Street

VIDEO: Seal pup and mom play and ‘kiss’ in Oak Bay Marina

BRNKL seal cam captures harbour seal growing up in busy harbour

Sooke minor hockey set to get kids on ice by mid-September

President says re-opening dependent on SEAPARC installing ice in time

B.C. records new COVID-19 death, 85 more cases; Horgan calls on celebrity help

This brings the total number of active confirmed cases to 531 across the province

Watchdog clears Okanagan RCMP in death of man after arrest over alleged stolen pizzas

The man died in hospital after having difficulty breathing and broken ribs

Have you seen Berleen? B.C. pig destined for sanctuary goes missing

Berleen was less than two weeks from travelling to Manitoba when she vanished

Health Canada says several kids hospitalized after eating edible pot products

People warned not to store cannabis products where children can find them

‘It’s not just about me’: McKenna cites need to protect politicians from threats

Police investigation was launched after someone yelled obscenities at a member of McKenna’s staff

Michigan plans dedicated road lanes for autonomous vehicles

First study of its kind in the U.S. to figure out whether existing lanes or shoulders could be used

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Aug. 11

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Filmmaker James Cameron’s Comox Valley winery up for sale

The director behind The Terminator and Titanic puts Beaufort Winery on the market after six years

B.C. announces multi-year plan to double treatment beds for youth with addiction

This will bring the total number of new beds specific to those 12 to 24 years old to 247 province-wide

Most Read