In a keynote address on Thursday (4-8-21) at the virtual Council of Forest Industries (COFI) conference, British Columbia’s Premier John Horgan addressed the ongoing timber shortage in the province. “There is too little fiber, and we need to do something about that,” Horgan said. It is going to require some give and take, and the taking, Horgan indicated, could include the government taking back tenure from some the large tenure holders. Much of the Crown forest tenure in B.C. is concentrated largely in the hands of just a few big players. Horgan wants to see some of that tenure freed up to smaller operators that struggle to access logs. Two years ago, he wrote to the CEOs of B.C.’s forestry companies urging them to work with each other, First Nations, workers, and communities to try to free up some of that tenure. Horgan said there has been a lack of progress in the voluntary redistribution of tenure, adding “I’m disappointed about that.” Horgan did not mention the ongoing opposition to logging in old growth forests, including in his own riding, but his forestry minister did. Katrine Conroy, minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations, and Rural Development said, “This issue has historically divided British Columbians. Today, it’s no different. We’ve seen protests in our communities and blockades of our forests, and we’ve heard from forest dependent communities concerned about their fate”. Conroy went on to say, “One thing both sides have agreed on is that the old way of protecting old growth forests just wasn’t working.” The B.C. forest industry has been through two years of bust and boom. In 2019, forestry companies were reporting net losses, permanently shuttering sawmills, and curtailing shifts in B.C. They blamed high operating costs — stumpage rates being a big factor — falling lumber prices, and an ever-shrinking supply of fiber. In the Interior, the Mountain pine beetle and forest fires have reduced the available timber supply. On the coast, the timber supply has shrunk partly due to conservation.
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Horgan warns forest industry of possible tenure take-backs