Mayor Merline Blackwell. File Photo

UPDATE: Interfor closes deal on local tenure transfer

Interfor must work with displaced forestry employees on opportunities for further employment

Interfor announced March 9 that it has closed the deal to buy the cutting rights in the Adams Lake area of the BC Interior from Canfor Corporation.

In a press release Canfor noted the sale of the Vavenby tenure provides the best opportunity for future economic activities and employment in the local communities.

District of Clearwater (DOC) Mayor Merlin Blackwell said while the situation isn’t ideal for people living in the area, the fact there’s finally a resolution after nine months of waiting comes as a welcomed relief.

“It feels like you can breathe again. I hope a lot of logging contractors and the outside forest workers in this town feel that way too. It’s the beginning of the next phase of the forest industry in the North Thompson Valley,” said Blackwell.

“I’ve said this a couple of times — I think this is the deal that nobody will love, but everybody can live with.”

As a result of Bill 22, which states the transfer of tenure must be approved by Forest Minister Doug Donaldson to ensure it’s in the public interest, Canfor committed to creating a $200,000 legacy fund with the DOC to be used at the district’s discretion and will also provide $150,000 over five years to the United Way as well as give $500,000 in funding to the Wells Gray Community Forest (WGCF).

Blackwell said the $200,000 legacy fund will be used to offset the loss in property taxes that the Vavenby mill would have brought in through the next five years or so, which means the DOC won’t have to do a tax increase as a direct result of the mill closure.

Forest Minister Donaldson said in a recent press release, “Under the previous government, companies could trade tenure like they were hockey cards, and the people impacted were often the last to find out — even when it resulted in the loss of hundreds of jobs.

“Our government brought in changes so that the needs of Indigenous Nations, workers and communities would have to be considered before a transfer would be approved. The official Opposition voted against those changes. That says a lot about where their priorities lie, which isn’t with rural communities in B.C.”

Though 172 jobs were lost when the Vavenby mill closed, a number of logging contractors and truck drivers will be able to go back to work, Blackwell said, which along with the money provided by Canfor for the legacy fund, United Way and WGCF, makes it the best deal from a bad situation.

“A fair number of people retired out of the mill, but I think Interfor has been told to try and get as many contract jobs back in play, to help as many people come back to work with opportunities and keep them relatively local first, as well as be good corporate citizens under this deal and I think they’re going to respect that,” Blackwell said.

Specifically, the approval is for the transfer of Tree Farm Licence (TFL) 18 and replaceable forest licence A18688, located in the Kamloops Timber Supply Area near Vavenby, from Canfor to Interfor.

The two licences have a combined allowable annual cut (AAC) of approximately 349,000 cubic metres per year. This includes an AAC of approximately 164,500 cubic metres per year from TFL 18 and approximately 184,500 cubic metres per year from A18688.

Don Kayne, president and CEO for Canfor, said his company is pleased that Premier John Horgan and Minister Donaldson approved the tenure transfer.

“With strong leadership from Premier Horgan, today’s decision demonstrates the BC government’s support of the Interior forest sector as it continues the difficult process of reducing production capacity to align with the available timber supply,” he said.

“Throughout this process, we have appreciated the opportunity to work in partnership with the Simpcw First Nation, the local communities and the United Steelworkers. We are working to sell the Vavenby mill site, which will provide the best opportunity for future economic activities and employment in the local communities.”

Further requirements of the deal include the need for Interfor to continue discussions with local secondary and value-added manufacturers in the North and South Thompson on log purchasing and wood-fibre supply agreements.

Interfor must also work with displaced woodlands employees on further opportunities for employment.



newsroom@clearwatertimes.com

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