Burns Lake council wants the province to stop allowing northern B.C.’s raw logs to be shipped to other countries.
In a letter to the Ministry of Forests, council urged the province to “reconsider allowing log exports out of Stewart.”
“Instead of shipping logs offshore to be processed, the logs could be sent to local mills, maintaining employment and milling capacity in the region,” stated the letter dated Nov. 15.
Burns Lake Mayor Dolores Funk told Lakes District News the issue of raw log exports is one that affects the forest products industry as a whole.
“Raw log export weakens our ability to benefit our economy through the manufacturing of value-added products,” said Funk. “As a community that relies heavily on the forest industry, we are concerned that this practice still continues.”
Dawn Makarowski, a ministry spokesperson, said allowing some exports from remote areas of the province allows fibre that would otherwise be too expensive to access to be harvested, in turn providing employment in the harvesting, transportation and support industries.
But Makarowski said it is the government’s objective is to see more logs processed in British Columbia.
The Coast Forest Sector Revitalization initiative, announced in January 2019, aims to increase the processing of B.C. logs within the province while reducing residual waste fibre left in the woods by redirecting it to B.C. pulp and paper mills. A similar review is underway for the Interior.
Funk said raw log exports stunt the industry’s ability to create new markets.
“We know that as the quality and quantity of our logs dwindles, we must evolve our industry to ensure that raw logs are no longer exported and that we gain as much economic benefit as possible from each harvested tree,” said Funk.
In 2018, 67.4 million cubic metres of logs were harvested in B.C. Exports of 5.1 million cubic metres (7.6 per cent of harvest), mostly from coastal areas, were worth $740 million.
The U.S., China, and Japan are the top three export markets for the B.C. forest sector.
The forest products industry in the Burns Lake area has been facing other challenges, including a reduction in annual allowable cut (AAC).
Hampton Lumber, which owns Decker Lake and Babine Forest Products, has been working to find a solution to continue operating at full capacity after the region’s AAC was reduced by 41 per cent in November.