Cedar is graded at Western Forest Products sawmill on Vancouver Island. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)

Another B.C. forest company looks south for lumber mill expansion

Premier John Horgan promises ‘carrots and sticks’ to grow sawmill jobs

As the B.C. government prepares plans to keep more logs and mill jobs in the province, the latest in a string of forest companies has continued to put its expansion investment into the United States.

Western Forest Products announced Friday it has closed a deal to buy Columbia Vista Corp. sawmill operations in Washington. Columbia Vista has operated at Vancouver, WA for more than 60 years, and now employs about 90 people producing 60 million board feet per year of Douglas fir products for the U.S. and Japan markets.

As B.C. forest companies have struggled with pressure on timber supply from diminished coastal logging and fire and beetle damage across the Interior, mills have cut production or closed while companies invest in U.S. facilities. Interfor Corp., one of the largest lumber producers in the world, has expanded by buying sawmills in Georgia, Arkansas and South Carolina.

B.C.-based Canfor Corp.’s latest acquisition is also in South Carolina, along with a 70 per cent stake in Vida Group, with nine sawmills in southern Sweden.

Western is B.C.’s largest coastal lumber producer, much of it Crown tenure on Vancouver Island. Some Island forests are private land, the legacy of colonial Governor James Douglas’ 1850s deal with coal baron James Dunsmuir to trade Crown land for construction of the Esquimalt and Nanaimo (E&N) Railway.

“This acquisition is consistent with our strategy of pursuing margin-focused business opportunities that complement our position in selected markets,” Western CEO Don Demens said in a statement.

RELATED: B.C. government extends northern log export exemptions

RELATED: B.C. loggers brace for changes to century-old export rules

Premier John Horgan spoke out about the trend of log exports and disappearing B.C. mill jobs at the recent Truck Loggers Association convention, following up with another speech the next week at the B.C. Natural Resource Forum in Prince George.

“For the last 20 years, employment on the coast has declined by about 40 per cent,” Horgan told the TLA convention in Vancouver Jan. 17. “Lumber production has dropped by 45 per cent, pulp production by 50 per cent. At the same time, log exports from Crown land have increased by nearly tenfold.”

Horgan promised “carrots and sticks,” to create incentives for mills in B.C. and reduce the export of “raw logs,” a ritual NDP term that has become a rallying cry on the B.C. coast.

In Prince George, Horgan promised to eliminate “surrogate bidding” so smaller lumber producers aren’t blocked from buying B.C. logs that are destined for Asian markets.

The industry is awaiting details of the province’s plans for export rules and incentives.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Pride crosswalk too expensive to install says municipal council

Mayor and council have asked staff to investigate whether a bench with a plaque supporting the LGBTQ+ community is feasible

Skeena Watershed reopened for recreational pink and coho

Four sections and tributaries remain closed

Skeena-Bulkley Valley candidates react to finding Trudeau broke ethics law

The election campaign is heating up before the writ has even dropped

Jim Pattison takeover offer ‘non-binding,’ Canfor cautions investors

B.C. billionaire already big shareholder in forest industry

Disney Plus to launch in Canada in November

Analysts say latest streaming service may escalate cord cutting

B.C. manhunt suspects left cellphone video before they died: family

Family member says Kam McLeod, Bryer Schmegelsky recorded final wishes

Okanagan bus driver assaulted for asking patron not to smoke

59-year-old in hospital with non-life threatening injuries

B.C. sets rules for ride hailing, same minimum fee as taxis

Larger operating areas seen as threat by cab companies

Two hiking families team up to extinguish fire in B.C. backcountry

Children and their parents worked for three hours to ensure safety of the popular hiking region

Vancouver man arrested after pregnant woman’s SUV stolen, then crashed

Police are recommending charges against a 22-year-old Vancouver man

Elections Canada to assess ‘partisan’ climate change rhetoric case by case

People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier has said climate change is not an emergency nor caused by human

Unseasonable snow forces campers out of northeastern B.C. provincial park

Storm brought as much as 35 centimetres of snow to the Fort Nelson, Muncho Lake Park-Stone Mountain Park

Most Read