As a former employee of both Skeena Cellulose and Eurocan I read the recent column “Log exports provide the foundation for growth” with interest. Mr. Sauer makes several good points however I disagree with his assessment of how forestry in this region arrived at it’s current sorry state.
Mr. Sauer contends that raw log exports are required because pulp and lumber are not working anymore. I suggest the opposite. Since we are now sending our resource to be processed in our competitors mills and then sold to our former customers, it seems reasonable that demand for our products has dropped.
Sadly large numbers of local jobs are lost in the process. At one time this region’s forests directly and indirectly employed thousands of people. Now after several years of high volume log exports the numbers are a tiny fraction of that.
No matter how it is dressed up, small numbers of employed is the best that raw log exports will ever be able to achieve. Large scale secondary processing of our resource, (alongside smaller local operations), is necessary for large scale employment. The real question is do we want it here or overseas?
Today’s record volume of raw log exports has its roots in Victoria. At the urging of special interest groups , the Liberal government made several important regulatory changes. Vastly expanded raw log export quotas and the deletion of appurtenance clauses have combined with market downturns to devestate forestry in this region.
Recently West Fraser closed down their mills here and yet has retained control of a large portion of this regions forest resource indefinitely.
Had Skeena not dissolved in bankruptcy and the assets sold off, local access to the TFL 1 woodlands might also have been lost . Clearly the current system in no better at providing for local interests than the old single tenure system and needs review.
Local access to wood certainly benefits the area and must form a part of future planing in forestry. To my mind small scale local industry processing a local resource approaches the ideal situation.
But ensuring a local wood supply is a completely separate discussion from exporting unprocessed logs. Export of raw logs as a temporary short term measure can be justified. People need to work. However when this type of emergency measure drags on indefinetly it has negative long term effects on a region.
Now that the big mills are gone how do we re-attract capital to this region? Mr. Sauer is correct that investors are not rushing to invest in forestry here. Why? Uncertain global conditions are in large part responsible for the deterioration of the industry.
Lack of investment in the large facilities, decreased productivity, and increased fibre costs also played a role. These difficult issues have been resolved elsewhere and are resolvable here But we have to ask ourselves, given the current regulations, why would anyone invest heavily in this regions forests? If the best of our resource can be had for export at minimal cost, with minimal investment, and minimal risk, why would a large potential investor ever settle in the region? Why would a established manufacturer stay?
Raw log export, or any type of long term access to resources without substantial investment, will never provide the foundation for growth.
The continued extraction of this region’s resources, without substantially benefiting the majority of its people is not the way forward, it’s a dead end street.