Representatives from COFI met with Village of Burns Lake town council to provide an update on the state of the provincial forestry industry. (File photo/Lakes District News)

B.C. Council of Forest Industries meets with town council

COFI representatives discussed challenges being faced by forest industry

  • Sep. 15, 2021 12:00 a.m.

The B.C. Council of Forest Industries (COFI) held a special meeting with the Village of Burns Lake town council via zoom to provide an update report on the governments forestry modernization plan as well as challenges that the forest industry is currently facing.

The B.C. Government recently outlined a forestry modernization plan during the summer, which in theory will help address the dwindling fibre supply by adapting to the impacts of climate change and protecting old growth forests. According to COFI, over 70 per cent of old growth forests will never be logged. Another one of the the proposed changes is a framework to redistribute forest tenures to Indigenous nations, small operators and forest communities such as Burns Lake.

According to COFI President and CEO Susan Yurkovich, COFI is partnering with with Indigenous communities, in an agreement that will generate $250 million in direct economic benefits to them.

COFI recently conducted a study of 1,000 people about whether they support a sustainable, strong forest industry. Over 87 per cent of the sample agreed that a strong forest sector is vital to B.C.’s economy, and 87 per cent agreed that building with sustainable low carbon B.C. forest products are a great way to combat climate change.

In the meeting, Yurkovich did some problems the industry is facing, saying that the lumber market has been especially volatile this year due to various challenges brought on by COVID-19. According to COFI, the price for timber has plummeted over the past few months, dropping from $1,600 per MBF [1,000 board feet] in May to $400 per MBF in August. The reasons for the decline are trade issues, access to fibre and increasing global competition.

READ MORE: More sawmill closures may be coming according to study

Yurkovich also outlined ways for the forest industry to combat these issues, and one of the main talking points was capitalizing on the demand for low carbon forest products such as recyclable food take out containers used by restaurants, coffee cups, paper towel, boxes, and even masks as an alternative to plastic.

Another point of emphasis was figuring out a way to get to and permit salvaged burned fibre in mills, which is something only certain mills can accomplish. “The salvage wood from fire has a small window for use, so we have to get to it and we have to find a way to get it permitted and get it out as quickly as we possibly can. In terms of innovation, I don’t know that there’s any special technology that’s being contemplated as of right now that can do something to get to more of the impacted wood, but to even have a chance to get at it, we have to figure out how to permit it in a timely way,” said Yurkovich.

“There’s already significant constraints on fiber, and if companies have lost standing timber in the fires then they could look for alternate areas. It’s something that we’re going to have to work on with with communities, first nations and government.”

Also present at the meeting was Canadian Resource Manager at Hampton Lumber Richard Vossen, who was asked about potential danger of mill closures in the Burns Lake area.

“We’re still running and our plan is to continue to run, but obviously those plans are week by week and if things get worse then re-evaluations could be necessary. At the moment though, we plan to continue to weather the storm and hope things improve in the market,” said Vossen. “One good thing about burned timber fiber is it’s a slightly lower cost into the mill then green fibre, so with stumpage going up it helps especially to places like the Decker Lake Forest Products mill that can produce specialty products that aren’t as volatile to the 2×4 market.”

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Eddie Huband
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