VICTORIA – Delegates at the Truck Loggers’ Association annual convention gave a cool reception Thursday to Forest Minister Steve Thomson’s adjustments to log export fees and rules.
Thomson announced a 20-per-cent increase in the export fee on logs exported from B.C.’s south coast and southern Vancouver Island, the main source of B.C. log exports. He also unveiled a two-year trial where the export fee on lower-grade log exports from the mid-coast region will be reduced to $1 per cubic meter, the same minimum rate as applied to Interior logs.
Thomson said only 10 per cent of the annual allowable cut in the mid-coast region is being harvested, and reducing the fee is an effort to generate more logging activity in a remote region with no sawmills. In December, the B.C. government extended a timber revenue sharing agreement with aboriginal communities in the mid-coast, in an effort to assist logging and other resource development in a vast area without treaty settlements.
TLA president Bill Markvoort said the fee increase for the south coast deters export sales at a time when the industry is not cutting all the trees allowed under provincial harvest rules for Crown land.
The TLA estimates that since 2000, 41 million cubic meters of coastal timber has been exported as logs. During the same period, 58 million cubic meters that could have been logged under sustainability rules was left standing.
Rick Jeffery, CEO of the Coastal Forest Products Association, said the changes represent a successful balancing act by the province between supplying B.C. mills and keeping loggers working to supply export markets.
“People should know that for every log that gets exported, between two and three logs end up in front of a domestic mill,” Jeffery said.
NDP forest critic Norm Macdonald said the increased export fee for south coast logs isn’t enough to stem the rising tide of log exports. A ministry example of the new fee schedule shows a fee increase from $7 to $8.40, based on the difference between the export and domestic price.
Thomson also announced an increase of 500,000 cubic meters of timber to be auctioned through B.C. Timber Sales this spring to supply the B.C. log market. Jeffery said that will improve access to logs for B.C. mills, which are taking advantage of improved lumber prices as the U.S. housing market recovers.