With the Canada-US softwood lumber agreement up for renegotiation, ever increasing U.S. protectionism, fewer but larger timber processing facilities, dwindling timber supplies, raw log exports and governments at all levels talking about innovation and creating jobs, it’s time to think outside the box, as they say.
The main concern of the forest companies as they are today is to get the raw material (logs) to their milling facilities as economically as possible. Nothing wrong with that, it’s good business sense. The problem is, proper forest management takes a back seat! The people (foresters, biologists, technicians, etc.) employed by these forest companies to manage their forest tenures ultimately take their marching orders from the head office, be it in Montreal, Vancouver, New York or Rio de Janeiro. This situation puts those managers in a conflict of interest, so to speak, where they have to manage the forests but do so to the bare minimum so their employer receives the timber at the lowest cost possible. That does not bode well for proper forest management. It does not help forest management either when the government only charges $0.25 per m3 for beetle killed timber. That’s roughly $10 per logging truck load of logs to help pay for management oversight by the B.C. Forest Service.
If forest management, logging and timber delivery were separated from the manufacturing facilities, forest managers could manage, loggers could log and millers could mill and all could do what they are best at.
One way to do this is to set up local forest management companies, like the forest consulting companies that exist today. They would have forest tenure in a specific region with the responsibility of proper forest management. Proper forest management would be their main concern. A properly managed forest would produce more volume than what is harvested, would be healthier and help reduce greenhouse gases and benefit all those that rely on it.
When logging occurs, those logs would go to a central log sort yard within that region. Those logs would then be sorted and sold to and British Columbia citizen at an upset price that covers all management and logging costs to get those logs to that yard. That means all planning, layout, pre and post harvest surveys, silviculture treatment, road building, logging and hauling costs. And something for the taxpayer too as the forests belong to them.
At this log yard, the manufacturers (ie: forest companies) or any B.C. citizen could buy logs that best suit their needs. The large forest companies would probably need fewer logs as they would only buy the logs that give them the best recovery. If every B.C. citizen had the opportunity to buy some of that wood, you could possibly have a million different people thinking of ways to utilize it rather than a handful of people from a handful of large corporations. B.C. and Canada have some of the highest quality timber in the world, but the majority of it is turned into the lowest priced commodity, 2×4’s and chips!
When the provincial and federal governments go on trade missions to foreign countries it would be advantageous to take delegates from smaller companies that are more flexible and able to adjust their operations to supply various niche markets.
If you want innovation and job creation, allow individuals and small companies the opportunity to have access to this forest resource of ours. It’s individuals that will come up with creative ways to utilize that resource and establish a much needed small business manufacturing sector and reduce our dependency on a U.S. market for 2x4s and chips.