Old growth forests have more value standing upright than cut down. And second growth timber should be processed at home. That message was delivered emphatically by a Port Renfrew quartet from business, labour and environment sectors to Duncan Cowichan Chamber of Commerce members recently. These very different interest groups – the Port Renfrew Chamber of Commerce (Dan Hager), the Pulp, Paper and Woodworkers of Canada (Cam Shiell) and the Ancient Forest Alliance (TJ Watt and Ken Wu) highlighted the importance of the gnarled trees in Avatar Grove as a valuable draw for the area’s burgeoning tourism industry.
Unions and independent groups are joining in on the chorus demanding change to forestry policies, especially those that don’t protect the increasingly rare old growth stands. “Getting more value out of resources must be a priority for everyone,” said Cam Shiell, forest resource officer for the PPWC. He said the PPWC is urging government and industry to transition to second growth logging, while at the same time ceasing raw log exports, calling it a “job-killing” practice that has exploded under the current government. “Major industry players have seen a loophole in the government surplus test to maximize profits,” he said. “By closing mills throughout the south coast, more logs become surplus. Big corporations have too much control of the industry controlling log prices, blacklisting buyers trying to prevent log exports.”
This week’s release of a research paper by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives has shone a spotlight on the topic again.
Another independent group is urging the government to make policy changes to help BC’s struggling value-added wood processing industry. Russ Cameron, president of the Independent Wood Processors Association (IWPA), believes the challenges are due to the forest policy changes of 2003 (relaxing tenure transfer restrictions) or the softwood lumber dispute with the USA. “The first has made it more difficult to obtain a share of the Public’s timber resource to further process in BC, and the second has made it more difficult to access our primary market,” he said. “In 2002, we had 107 producing member companies. Since then, 54 of those companies have gone out of business or quit processing in BC primarily due to the two factors above. The industry is often described as being either primary (sawmills) or secondary (value added), but a far better description is tenured or non-tenured.” The IWPA now has about 70 members including seven on Vancouver Island.
Cameron believes If intelligently allocated, a quota based agreement can solve many of BC’s problems, obtain the greatest socioeconomic benefit per cubic meter harvested, and free BC from US oversight of its forest policy. In January he met with the North Cowichan council, part of his appeal to municipal and provincial politicians in advance of serious talks with the US to renegotiate the deal.
All these groups are seeing the forest and the trees, and calling for change to improve BC’s handling of this precious resource.