The B.C. government is changing the rules for timber licences, requiring provincial permission for companies to trade or dispose of cutting rights.
Forests Minister Doug Donaldson introduced amendments to the Forest Act Thursday to restrict companies’ ability to trade or sell Crown timber licences, to “prevent further concentration of harvesting rights.” The change is part of Premier John Horgan’s promised revitalization of the forest industry, which has seen forest companies consolidate and close sawmills.
“To approve the transfer, we will first want to understand how it will help the people in British Columbia and encourage diversity in the forest sector,” Donaldson told the legislature.
— Tom Fletcher (@tomfletcherbc) April 11, 2019
One of those transfers took place in 2014, in the wake of reduced timber supply caused by widespread mountain pine beetle infestation in the B.C. Interior. West Fraser Mills closed its high-volume sawmill at Houston and Canfor shut down its Quesnel mill, as harvestable dead wood diminished.
The two companies traded timber cutting rights to keep one mill supplied in each region.
Donaldson said a key part of the strategy is to provide more economic opportunity for Indigenous communities.
On the B.C. Coast, the historic concentration of cutting rights in the hands of a few big players has been focus for the Truck Loggers’ Association, as logging contractors struggle to remain viable in a market battered by mill closures, U.S. border tariffs and swings in demand from Asian buyers.
“We want all British Columbians to benefit from the forest industry, large and small, first nations, workers and communities,” Donaldson said. “The previous legislation governing disposition of crown tenures limited government’s influence.”