Pellet plant recently completed at Terrace’s only sawmill uses waste wood to create a new revenue stream. (Skeena Sawmills)

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

GIF
’90s rock band from Delta resurfaces with songs never properly recorded or released

Underwater Sunshine’s online reunion involves four guys who lost contact for years

Anita Huberman, CEO Surrey Board of Trade. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
Surrey Board of Trade calls for ‘immediate’ government help for businesses shut down

‘Don’t punish all businesses for the sins of a few,’ CEO Anita Huberman says

The 3D Digital Breast Tomosynthesis Mammography machine, new to the Surrey Breast Health Clinic at the Jim Pattison Outpatient Care and Surgery Centre. (submitted photo)
New 3D breast-cancer technology in Surrey ‘has already helped so many women’

Digital breast tomosynthesis new to Surrey Breast Health Clinic

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, Nov. 23, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. daily COVID-19 cases hits record 941 on Tuesday

Further restrictions on indoor exercise take effect

(Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Refuse to follow B.C.’s mask mandate? Face a $230 fine

Masks are now required to be worn by all British Columbians, 12 years and older

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speak to the media about the COVID-19 virus outside Rideau Cottage in Ottawa, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s inability to manufacture vaccines in-house will delay distribution: Trudeau

First doses of COVID-19 vaccine expected in first few months of 2021, prime minister says

Beaver Creek RCMP Cpl. Robert Drapeau, left to right, Gary Bath, Lynn Marchessault, Payton Marchessault, Rebecca Marchessault and Tim Marchessault pose in this recent handout photo near the Canada-U.S. border crossing near Beaver Creek, Yukon. A family reunion trip for the woman from Georgia that left them stranded ended on a bright note when Bath drove them to the Alaskan border following an appeal for help. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Gary Bath *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Help from B.C. man allows American family to reunite in Alaska

Lynn Marchessault drove from Georgia to the Alaska border to join her husband, who serves in U.S. military

There are 32 active outbreaks in seniors' homes in the Fraser Health region.
MAP: See the locations of 32 active COVID-19 outbreaks in Fraser Health seniors’ homes

There are 32 active outbreaks in assisted-living, long-term care homes and seniors’ rental buildings

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

(Pixabay.com)
Man, 28, warned by Kootenay police to stop asking people to marry him

A woman initially reported the incident to police before they discovered others had been popped the question

Winston Blackmore (left) and James Oler (right) were sentenced on separate charges of polygamy this week in Cranbrook Supreme Court.
No more charges expected in Bountiful investigation, special prosecutor says

Special prosecutor says mandate has ended following review of evidence from Bountiful investigations

BC Teachers' Federation President Teri Mooring is asking parents of school-aged children to encourage the wearing of masks when possible in schools. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito)
LETTER: Teachers union encourages culture of mask wearing in B.C. schools

BCTF President Teri Mooring asks parents to talk with children about wearing masks in school

Most Read