Brenda Gouglas. (Black Press file photo)

Letter to the editor – timber is being hauled out of Fort St. James

Dear Editor,

This is a rebuttal to Caledonia Courier’s article titled — Conifex employees uncertain about sale agreement

It is not a rumour, Conifex timber has been leaving Fort St. James for months. District of Fort St. James Mayor Bev Playfair and the Councillors were quick to speak about the announcement of the sale of Conifex’s Fort St. James mill to Hampton at their Council meeting June 25th.

Something the Mayor said during that meeting rang hollow to me; she said they had a mission statement, with number one being “timber is not leaving out of this community.”

Mayor Playfair and Councillors are still of the same mindset according to the Caledonia Courier article ‘Conifex employees uncertain about sale agreement’. The following excerpts from the article are proof of that:

“He [Ken Honeywell] said rumours are circulating that the logs are being moved out of the district, but the mayor and council says that isn’t true”, and in regard to the rumours about logs leaving town, Mayor Playfair said, “Since the time I became Mayor, we have a strong stance about no more logs leaving the community and we know Nak’azdli Whut’en stands with us on that.”

Contrary to what the Mayor and Councillors believe, and what they want the laid off Conifex workers and the public to believe, Conifex timber has been leaving our community for months. In January through March Conifex sold 51 loads of timber directly from their Forest Licence A77955 to Dunkley Lumber and in June 186 loads to Carrier Lumber.

Visually those loads would have been indistinguishable from all the others leaving our community; I researched the facts from our Province’s publicly accessible Harvest Billing System database.

Those 237 loads represent more than 27 percent of the 866 loads hauled from Conifex’s Forest Licence this year; the remaining 629 loads were scaled at Conifex’s mill yard according to the database, as though to be processed in their mill.

Considering the shift reduction, and shutdown starting in May, who knows how much of that volume was actually milled. Over the month of July I saw numerous loads of timber being hauled from Conifex’s mill yard, and being delivered to Dunkley Lumber and possibly other mills east of Vanderhoof.

That transfer of timber between mills is not tracked in the database so it is difficult to know the exact number of loads currently leaving our community without observing them.

What we cannot forget is the 32 percent (200,000 cubic metres) of Conifex’s Forest Licence timber volume sold to Canfor in 2015; to date this year 1165 loads of timber have been hauled to Plateau and other Canfor operations.

All of that seems to make a mockery of Conifex’s rationale that there is “too little saw log supply to maintain operations as it has in the B.C. Interior,” leading to the sale of their mill and timber rights to Hampton.

It is realistic to think that if the sale to Hampton goes through the timber will be hauled to their Burns Lake and Decker Lake mills until if and when they meet their stated commitment to build a new mill here. All of that while our families, friends and neighbours are without work.

What can WE do to ensure the timber is processed in our area?

The sale to Hampton is not yet final. Under new legislation the sale must be approved by the Provincial Government in consultation with Local Governments and communities. If you believe the timber should be processed in our community write a letter to both the Provincial and local governments.

Time is of the essence in this process.

Then go one step further. The Provincial Government is seeking our input/feedback on changes to the Forest Act; here is a link to the backgrounder and feedback portal: engage.gov.bc.ca/interiorforestrenewal.

Submit your comments or concerns; remember, the Apollo mill operation could be next.

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