I would like to address some inaccurate comments by Ben Parfitt in his March 10 column.
Mr. Parfitt seems to suggest that B.C.’s response to the devastating pine beetle infestation (escalated logging rates) was wrong, saying that the longer it continued, the more rapidly local forests would be depleted and the steeper the future costs to local communities. This is so obviously incorrect that I have to wonder at his perception. The trees were dying faster than we could harvest them.
Whether we took them or not, they were still dying and depleting the forest inventory. Logging them was better than leaving them to rot for two reasons: the salvage operations pumped money into the economy in the short term and more logging means more planting, which means a faster recovery than waiting for nature to do it.
He decries the mill closures, but most mill closures occurred during the record-paced logging. It wasn’t a matter of lack of wood, rather it was increased efficiencies and poor markets. Our mills had the capacity to produce more lumber than our forests could sustainably provide. With the 2009 crash in lumber markets and the knowledge that the dead pine would soon run out, decisions were made accordingly. Industry has long been aware of the impending reductions in the annual allowable cut.
Mr. Parfitt claims that in the Prince George Timber Supply Area, “logging rates must decline by half because of years of unsustainable logging.” Absolutely false. They must decline because of the pine beetle. If we had not escalated the cut, logging rates would still have to decline to the same levels. The trees are dead, whether we cut them or not.
Mr. Parfitt suggests requiring that all logs within defined regions be delivered to regionally managed log yards and auctioned to the highest bidders. I wonder, does he have any idea of the amount of logs that flow into our mills in the course of a year? Perhaps he should visit one and see for himself the amount of inventory required just to get through three months of break-up.
Who would pay for such a massive undertaking as a log yard for those volumes? Who would pay the logging contractors who are currently paid by the forest companies? Government? Every mill has its own criteria for log lengths, quality and sorting. Would he require all mills to conform to the same standards? How could the industry absorb all those extra costs along with American countervailing duties in a competitive market?
And finally Mr. Parfitt wants to require our forest companies to have value-added manufacturing plants. Value added is a great idea, everybody likes it, but just exactly what would we manufacture from spruce and balsam? Those are our main species. They are not suitable for products like furniture or flooring. Douglas fir has potential for value added if it comes from west coast trees, but interior fir is too pitchy and we don’t have much of it. Lodgepole pine has other uses, but it’s pretty much gone, thanks to the beetles. Everybody wants value added, but nobody can answer the question of what else can we make besides dimension lumber.
The fact is, in this area, lumber is the best that we can produce, the tenure quota system ensures continuity of supply, a basis for planning and stability of costs. Is the system perfect? No, but I would suggest that before calling for such a massive change, Mr. Parfitt should do a bit more research into the industry.