The size of the Conifex timber license that Hampton Lumber seeks to acquire could have an annual allowable cut (AAC) as large as 444,000 cubic metres.
“But we expect that to be reduced somewhat through future actions by the Chief Forester,” as Steve Zika, Chief Executive Officer of Hampton Lumber told Lakes District News.
To put that license size in perspective, the current AAC for the Lakes District Timber Supply Area is 1.6 million cubic metres. It was set in 2011 and the new determination is expected to made in the fall. Many people in the region are anxious that the new AAC might be significantly lower.
Zika’s comments on the Conifex license come a few months after Hampton announced it planned to buy Conifex’ timber license and its sawmill in Fort St. James.
“Our plan is to dismantle the existing sawmill. In relation to the existing sawmill since some of the equipment may have future value,” as Zika said in June.
The sawmill sale affected more than 220 employees of the Fort St. James facility.
The transferring of timber licenses is subject to a regulatory process by the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development (FLNRORD), which started for the Conifex license in mid-July.
“There is no specific time line in statute for the review by the Minister but we are hopeful it will be accomplished in 90 days,” Zika said. “We continue to meet with First Nations and community leaders in Fort St. James to talk about our plans for building a new sawmill and the potential for local partnerships. I believe conversations to date have been positive and encouraging.”
The Hampton CEO couldn’t comment on the specific value of the timber license, but the total value of the deal with Conifex for both the license and the mill is worth about $39 million.
The assessment of a license transfer takes into account several factors related to the economy, forestry industry and First Nations rights, as FLNRORD spokesperson Jeremy Uppenborn explained.
“Under the Forest Act, the Minister must consider the effects of the disposition on the marketing of fibre in British Columbia and the public interest. Additionally, the Minister has a constitutional duty to consult and assess whether the transfer might result in an infringement of Indigenous rights and title and whether it is necessary to develop some measures to accommodate if a finding of infringement arise. Consultation is ongoing with First Nations and the ministry is collecting information on the public interest.”
Hampton currently operates the Babine and Decker Lake Forest Products mills in Burns Lake, the only Canadian operations of the Oregon-based company.