By Jim Stirling
Last year’s annual convention of the Council of Forest Industries (COFI) was held in Vancouver, attended by about 600 delegates and acclaimed a great success. Now, in 2018, the COFI convention shifts north to Prince George, the city at the geographical heart of both British Columbia and Canada’s softwood lumber producing industry.
Many of the challenges and issues identified at the Vancouver gathering have come to pass and not all of them are positive in nature. But if there’s one factor that characterizes the western Canadian forest industry, it’s that it’s populated at all levels by people who won’t shy away from adversity. Indeed, the converse is true; adversity seems to fire a determination to respond positively. It’s that trait that’s poised to transform the Prince George Civic Centre into a busy, positive and vibrant place April 4-6 as speakers and delegates face the industry’s issues and challenges head on.
“We’re looking forward to coming to Prince George this year with our convention and we feel confident of a good response,” predicted Susan Yurkovich, COFI’s president and CEO. “We have a lot of issues ahead of us.”
Prominent among them and fundamental to the forest industry’s future are factors surrounding fibre supply and sustainability, said Yurkovich. The industry’s share of the productive forest land base in the B.C. Interior has taken a hammering in recent years. The prolonged mountain pine beetle epidemic will impact fibre supply in the B.C. Interior for many years.
The focus by forest companies and their logging contractors on a concerted program of salvage logging was successful in converting large volumes of beetle stricken timber into valuable wood products. But the sheer scale of the epidemic will cast a shadow for years to come on the timber supply in many parts of the interior.
Beetles are also attacking spruce in increasing numbers in several parts of the interior, adding to the timber supply woes. The beetles’ effects are showing up in reduced Annual Allowable Cut (AAC) calculations across the region. The AAC information is critical for forest licencees. They need to know they have a sustainable wood supply to help them invest for the future, pointed out Yurkovich.
As if the mountain pine beetle legacy wasn’t enough to deal with, the changing climate also played its part in B.C. recording its worst forest fire season in 2017. The BC Wildfire Service reports there were 1,351 wildfires in B.C. from April 1 and they consumed more than 12,000 square kilometres of forest, most of it in the province’s southern interior. From the regional forest industry’s perspective, the horrific wildfire season heralds a renewed spate of salvage logging in the interior. It’s been a source of frustration in some interior areas that the provincial government had not, by early 2018, given the green light so companies can start harvesting burned timber volumes on Crown land.
“We’ve been working with the government on that,” reported Yurkovich. “We want to get that fibre moving.”
Wildfires rarely burn a forest stand uniformly. Opinions vary about how long standing burned volumes retain value for commodity lumber production. But most observers agree that the sooner the burned wood is harvested, the better. Value is maximized—including that to the province—more people are put to work, and the land can be reforested faster for the next rotation.
“We will have speakers to present a detailed economic update at the convention,” continued Yurkovich. She said lumber markets remain good in North America both in terms of housing starts and in the repair and remodelling sectors. Tempering that, of course, is the troubling softwood lumber dispute and the imposition of duties on Canadian softwood imports into the U.S. Under President Donald Trump, the U.S. has also has also instituted a complete re-examination of NAFTA, North America’s framework trade agreement between the U.S., Canada and Mexico.
“The Canada-U.S. relationship is very critical for our industry,” said Yurkovich.
Hearing directly from the CEOs of major forest companies has recently become a popular feature of COFI conventions. Delegates to the Prince George convention will again have the opportunity to listen to and ask questions of industry leaders.
The relationships between technology and forest industry jobs will also be examined during business sessions at the annual meeting. Few industries apply technological expertise through so many facets of its activities as today’s forestry.
COFI’s annual meetings are more than the formal agendas and speeches from government and industry leaders. They’re also about what happens when the industry gets together on an informal and smaller scale, reminded Yurkovich.
“The convention provides a huge opportunity for colleagues to communicate and come together.”
There will be a new membership element added to COFI’s 2018 convention. “As the high and lows of 2017 continue into the New Year, they will be addressed with a new voice for the coast,” wrote Rick Jeffery, president and CEO of the Coast Forest Products Association in a year end message. “The B.C. coastal forestry as represented by Coast Forest will be united with the B.C. Council of Forest Industries. Together we will look to the future as we always have—with resilience, persistence and optimism.” The new relationship between Coast Forest and COFI is effective April 1, 2018
“We are very pleased they (Coast Forest) made the decision,” welcomed Yurkovich. “There are a lot of issues between the coast and the interior that we have in common and this allows more horsepower to be applied to them,” she added.
“There is a ton of collaboration between the organizations already, especially on trade files. When we sit around a table, we can discuss the industry and its challenges with a common voice. We have way more in common than is different.”
The two soon-to-unified organizations are integral parts of the overall forest economy in B.C. A 2017 study from consulting firm PwC revealed about $13 billion of the province’s GDP comes from forestry. The study showed the forest industry is responsible for 6,000 direct jobs in B.C.; 140,000 indirect jobs and contributes to the stability of 140 B.C. communities. ”We are a cornerstone of the provincial economy,” said Yurkovich.
For the latest information about COFI’s 2018 annual convention, consult: www.cofi.org
BC Forest Safety Booth 28 www.bcforestsafe.org
BC Ministry of Finance Booth 42 www2.gov.bc.ca
BC Timber Sales Booth 11 www.for.gov.bc.ca/bcts
BID Group of Companies Booth 9 www.bidgroup.ca
Brunette Machinery Company Inc. Booth 24 & 25 www.brunettemc.com
Canadian Forest Industries Magazine (CFI) Booth 31 www.woodbusiness.ca
Canadian Women in Timber Booth 0 www.canadianwomenintimber.com
CN Booth 37 & 38 www.cn.ca
Denning Health Booth 40 www.denninghealth.ca
DLA Piper (Canada) LLP Booth 45 www.dlapiper.com
DO2 Industrial Booth 35 www.do2.ca
EECOL Electric Booth 30 www.eecol.com
Farris, Vaughan, Wills & Murphy LLP Booth 4 www.farris.com
Finning Booth 47 www.finning.ca
Forest Practices Board Booth 43 www.fpb.gov.bc.ca
Forestry Innovation Investment Booth 34 www.bcfii.ca
FPInnovations Booth 36 www.fpinnovations.ca
Halco Software Systems Ltd. Booth 21 www.halcosoftware.com
HewSaw Machines Inc. Booth 12 www.hewsaw.com
Industrial Autolube Booth 41 www.autolube.ca
Leavitt Machinery Booth 33 www.leavittmachinery.com
Lim Geomatics Inc. Booth 2 www.limgeomatics.com
LINCK GmbH Booth 18 www.linck.com
Logging and Sawmilling Journal (LSJ) Booth 39 www.forestnet.com
Lucidyne Technologies, Inc. Booth 5 www.lucidyne.com
Mill Tech Industries Booth 1 www.mill-tech-ind.com
Murray Latta Progressive Machine Inc. Booth 26 & 27 www.mlpmachine.com
Nicholson Manufacturing Booth 7 www.debarking.com
Optimil Machinery Inc. Booth 6 www.optimil.com
Porter Engineering Ltd. Booth 17 www.portereng.com
Raptor Integration Inc. Booth 16 www.raptorint.ca
Samuel Packaging Systems Group Booth 8 www.samuelstrapping.com
SCSFP by Finna Booth 13 www.finnagroup.com
SiCam Systems Booth 19 www.sicamsystems.com
Signode Canada Booth 48 www.signode.com
Springer Microtec Booth 29 www.springer-microtec.com
Sustainable Forestry Initiative Booth 23 www.sfiprogram.org
USNR Booth 20 www.usnr.com
Valutec Wood Dryers Inc. Booth 44 www.valutec.ca
VETS Group Booth 15 www.vetsgroup.com
VK North America, Inc. Booth 50 www.valonkone.com/north-america
Wesgroup Equipment Booth 32 www.wesgroupequipment.com
Westburne Booth 49 www.westburne.ca
Wolftek Industries Inc. Booth 14 www.wolftek.ca
WoodWorks! (CWC) Booth 46 www.wood-works.ca
On the Cover:
Successful sawmill owners are always seeking ways to improve their operations and make them run more efficiently. If an upgrade in one area of the mill contributes a positive ripple benefit elsewhere in the process, that’s so much the better. That’s exactly what happened with the installation of the first Brunette Machinery Retract-To-Load (RTL) log singulator unit at Carrier Lumber’s Tabor mill operation near Prince George, B.C. (Photo courtesy of Carrier Lumber).
Goin’ south—with PinkWood
Calgary’s PinkWood, which sets itself apart by producing a fire-resistant I-joist line, was initially set up to serve the market in Western Canada, but is now making big inroads into the U.S. market—which is good news for the mills that supply it with lumber and OSB.
Logging Win all the way ‘round
The Snuneymuxw First Nations and Vancouver Island logging contractor A&K Timber are part of a successful venture that is seeing work and revenue being generated for the band, logging work for A&K Timber, and timber being harvested for mill operations on Vancouver Island.
What will sawmills of the future look like?
Will the sawmills of the future be run entirely from an I-Phone or I-Pad? Logging and Sawmilling Journal looks at what might be in store for future sawmills with UBC wood science assistant professor Julie Cool.
Hauer Bros. mill has a lot of history
The mid-sized Hauer Bros. Sawmill in B.C.’s Robson Valley has a long history in the area, and these days finds its market niche producing mostly timber for regional markets in the B.C. Interior.
Advance look at the COFI Conference
Logging and Sawmilling Journal takes a look at the issues—from the softwood lumber dispute to dealing with wildfire-damaged timber in the sawmill—that will be under discussion at the upcoming COFI conference, being held April 4-6 in Prince George, B.C.
New singulator unit increases mill efficiency—and more
New sawmilling technology, in the form of the first Brunette Machinery Retract-To-Load (RTL) log singulator unit, is helping to make operations run more efficiently—and reducing maintenance downtime—at Carrier Lumber’s Tabor sawmill in Prince George, B.C
Included in this edition of The Edge, Canada’s leading publication on research in the forest industry, are stories from the Canadian Wood Fibre Centre, Alberta Innovates and Alberta Agriculture.
The Last Word
The ITC decision on Canadian softwood lumber duties is pure theatre, says Jim Stirling.