It is well known that the Coast forest industry has been in serious decline for a long time.
What is often forgotten is that the precipitator of decline was the self-imposed burden of “Super-stumpage” and the prescriptive Forest Practices Code, which were brought in by the prior government in 1994 and 1995. In fact, the average coast log costs skyrocketed up by around 80 per cent. The net affect was that we priced ourselves out of the global market (especially Japan) and within a few years the disinvestment phenomenon began to unravel as mills began to suffer large unnecessary unsustainable losses.
Fast forward to the back half of 2008 and the global financial meltdown almost destroyed what little life was left in the coastal manufacturing sector mainly because of the collapse of the U.S. housing market, which still persists today.
However, things are in fact much brighter today looking forward. One of the first most critical fundamental steps taken to fix the mess was the implementation of a Results Based Code in 2004 (FRPA) which stripped out red tape and introduced reliance of forest professionals to get the job done in the woods, not behind desks. The other critical step was the introduction of a fair market based pricing system for stumpage calculations. Since then we have seen countless other positive policy changes which collectively have and will benefit us over the long term.
Fortunately, we have a Minister (Pat Bell) who has worked tirelessly and strategically drumming up business in China for our lumber mills through numerous Trade Missions to help open up an alternative market to the U.S. We have been able to increase our lumber sales to China dramatically province-wide to record levels as we participate in their voracious growing economy and demand for lumber for construction and further manufacturing. This doesn’t result in hugely profitable businesses here, but at least many of our mills have been fired up or are running more shifts. I should mention that other countries are also very important for our wood exports, especially Japan, but they cannot fill the gap we are missing from the important U.S. market.
The coast logging sector has recovered a bit better because there is a very strong log export market to Asia, China in particular. This has been a blessing as it has put thousands of people back to work. The spin-off of logging for export is that it also generates logs for domestic mills here that otherwise wouldn’t be available without the export program that can make blocks of timber economic to harvest.
The coast forest industry has bounced off the bottom and is now beginning to slowly recover. We need a steady hand in government to let the economic activity continue to grow without encumbrances or unnecessary costs. Our industry will never be what it once was. It will be completely different and better. It will be reliant on vigorous second growth forests and will have more efficient harvesting operations and manufacturing plants. And soon it will have a new, younger and energetic workforce entering the sector in planning, harvesting, silviculture, manufacturing, government and consulting, to name a few.
For young people in Campbell River, I encourage you to look at the forest industry very closely as it holds promise of being a Sunrise Industry. With the wave of baby-boomer retirements sweeping through as we speak, you have endless opportunities to join the greenest and most environmentally-friendly major resource industry on the planet, right here on the coast of British Columbia. It is the only major industry that can reverse the carbon emission issue because wood products store carbon while the new forests sequester carbon from the atmosphere, plus wood consumes the least energy of all of the major alternative products such as concrete, steel and oil derivatives – and as well it is a clean, renewable bioenergy source.
As the world’s population expands further, science and sensible environmentalism will drive us to use more wood. You can be a part of that future.
VP Coastal Woodlands, Interfor