No time machine for forestry: but local benefits could help

by Andru McCracken


Gene Runtz, McBride Community Forest Manager /RMG FILE PHOTO

For Robson Valley’s community forests, reintroducing a provincial policy that requires local wood be milled locally (called appurtenancy) won’t bring back old time prosperity, but the principle of tying wood harvesting to local communities could spur innovation in the local forest industry, managers say.

Valemount Community Forest Manager Craig Pryor said the requirement to mill all wood locally would be devastating to the broader economy. Pryor points out that, in the Robson Valley area, the amount of wood that sustained CANFOR (and Slocan before it) has been divided up between BC Timber Sales, the now-existing community forests and the main tenure holder Carrier Lumber.

He doesn’t think what is left would sustain a mill.

Pryor suggested an alternative policy, like putting a portion of wood aside, perhaps 20%, that had to stay in the community for processing.

In any case, Pryor isn’t sure the Province can reintroduce appurtenancy, a policy axed by the Liberal government in 2003.

“I think it’s really hard to go back,” he said. “You got all these mills in Prince George and all these big centers, you’re going to tell them now that they can’t take all the wood from here?”

He asks what would be done with the wood.

“There are no mills left (in smaller communities), so what do you do?” he asks. “It will just hurt the economy.”

Pryor said if the impulse is job creation, modern mills don’t require many workers anyway.

However, keeping a percentage of the cut for small communities could provide opportunity for innovation, for instance, a chance for small mills to use especially big wood, or special logs.

For McBride Community Forest Manager Gene Runtz, sawing valuable white wood in the valley is a nonstarter.

“In terms of sawmills you won’t be able to compete,” said Runtz. “There’s no use doing it. You can’t compete against these huge mills, with veneer or anything.”

“It’s a difficult situation,” said Runtz.

Runtz said if the Province really wanted to look at bringing value back to small communities they would look at opening up more cedar for communities like McBride.

“The future looks to me like it is going to be in the post and rail business,” he said.

Runtz said a substantial amount of cedar exists east of Prince George.

“If it became part of the McBride Community Forest you would absolutely see that wood coming here,” said Runtz.

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