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Tolko Industries wants salvage timber and reduced stumpage

Council listened to presentation and mayor will likely take message to ministry staff

At their last meeting, Quesnel mayor and council agreed to take a message to Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations & Rural Development (FLNRO&RD) Minister Doug Donaldson’s staff on behalf of Tolko Industries Ltd.

Noting he was going to be meeting with a number of the NDP government’s ministerial staff as a followup to the recent Union of BC Municipalities, Mayor Bob Simpson asked Tolko External and Stakeholder Relations manager Tom Hoffman what message he would like him to give to them.

Hoffman said there were two messages.

“We need to access to burnt timber and it’s imperative to have a salvage plan, and time is of the essence.

“We’re talking mature trees that were burnt. We need to access those quickly in order to generate the lumber because the longer they sit, the less viable they are.

“The key is to get on with salvage as quickly as we can… and it has to be commercially viable.”

It is going to be expensive to harvest and mill burnt wood, he added.

Hoffman noted green wood is worth more than burnt and dead pine, so stumpage must reflect the commercial viability.

Earlier in the meeting, council learned the local Tolko mill is operating on a one-shift basis and the planer remains down. There isn’t any wood to plane currently.

The company continues to face significant challenges with weather, contract workforce, and accessible permits to enable log delivery to get a second shift operational.

Currently, the mill is running at half capacity.

The projection to get back to a two-shift operation is probably four to six weeks away. The company needs the weather to co-operate and get its contractors lined up.

Tolko is looking at all of its options of its green, burnt and remaining dead pine to fibre up.

They have about five-and-a-half days of balsam in the yard, and 11 days of spruce, pine and fir (SPF) – based on a one-shift basis.

Despite rumours, Hoffmann said Tolko is investing in the mill and looking for opportunities, especially in short-term salvage to ensure they have enough wood to go to a two-shift operation.

Gerry Mooney, Tolko’s woodlands manager – harvesting for the Cariboo, talked about the salvage plan.

Based on initial mapping of what has occurred in the region, he said just less than one million hectares of timber has been destroyed and damaged by the wildfires this past season.

He noted there has been a big impact on Quesnel, which is Tolko’s western timber supply area, first by the mountain pine beetle and now the huge wildfires.

“Tolko had good intentions to salvage mountain pine beetle for some period of time. We had a full year of timber west of Nazko laid out, ready to harvest, ribbons around it and probably another half a year in progress. It was a big loss to our operation.

“We needed the pine beetle base to sustain our operation, and it had a big impact on our workforce. Our workforce has obviously been disrupted since July 7, and with that loss of timber, it has been a real struggle to get our contractors to work for us.

“We’re at about 70 per cent production in the bush right now.”

He said the key message he wanted to give council: “We’re open for business and we’re looking at opportunities to continue fibre up that mill.

“We want our workforce to stick with us. We want those guys who have left the community to realize there’s a future here with Tolko and that we’re committed to fibre up this facility.

“As we look at the salvage opportunities, the pine and spruce land base is very difficult to salvage. In a lot of cases, the pine has been completely destroyed.

“One opportunity is in our Douglas-fir forests. A significant amount of Douglas-fire has be damaged in the region and we’re looking hard at opportunities to mill that in our facility.”

He added Tolko is working with FLNRO&RD local representatives and First Nation partners to utilize their licences and help salvage the timber from the wildfires.

It was noted there will be difficulties removing the bark, which can’t be used for chips.

“It will contaminate the chips, but underneath that bark is usable wood. We’re working through the barking options to make this a viable opportunity and then try to make adjustments at our mills to deal with dust and the altered fibre source.”