Forestry is the North Thompson Valley’s biggest industry but it is unusual to get a roomful of people involved in the industry speaking openly about their hopes and fears.
We got a bit of that last Thursday evening when a number of woodlot owners and representatives from Wells Gray Community Forest met at the Community Resource Center in Clearwater to discuss the Bridges II project.
Possibly the most alarming information at the meeting was that brought forward by local woodlot owner Bas Delaney.
According to Delaney, representatives from Canfor had told them that afternoon that the Vavenby sawmill needs 842,000 cubic meters of logs per year to operate. The company has an annual allowable cut of 450,000 cubic meters from its operating areas nearby. Canfor-Vavenby can supply all the volume it needs for the next two years due to having undercut its AAC for so long while the mill was shut down. Once that undercut is used up, however, the mill will need to buy nearly 400,000 cubic meters per year to keep operating.
According to another of the woodlot owners at the meeting, Interfor’s sawmill on Adams Lake is in much the same position.
The North Thompson Valley has some of the best and most diverse forests in the province. Very little of the wood that grows here is processed here, however. In fact, Canfor-Vavenby is the only major sawmill left in the Valley.
It could be argued that Canfor’s head office missed a golden opportunity a few years ago when it let West Fraser and Interfor purchase Weyerhaeuser’s logging rights in the Valley, rather than buying them for themselves.
We wrote an editorial at the time saying that local sawmills, woodlot owners, logging contractors and others should get together with Simpcw First Nation to purchase the Weyerhaeuser forest licenses.
The community forests in Clearwater and Barriere were just being set up at the time and were not really factors in the equation.
Now both Wells Gray Community Forest and Lower North Thompson Community Forest have proven themselves to be viable operations. The new municipalities of Clearwater and Barriere also are gaining experience and looking for new opportunities.
We hope that the Canfor-Vavenby sawmill will continue to operate indefinitely. However, if the company decides to follow Weyerhaeuser’s lead and take its business elsewhere, the people of the Valley are in a much better position today to insist that control of the forest licenses remain in the Valley and, if necessary, take over operation of them ourselves.