COFI conference to tackle the industry’s burning topics

There will be no shortage of issues to be talked about at the upcoming COFI conference in Prince George, B.C., being held April 4 to 6, including timber supply issues in B.C. due to beetle attacks—and a horrific year for wildfires.

By Jim Stirling

COFILast 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.”

COFILumber markets remain good in North America both in terms of housing starts and in the repair and remodelling sectors. But tempering that is the troubling softwood lumber dispute and the imposition of duties on Canadian softwood imports into the U.S.

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.

COFIAs 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.

COFI“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

COFI“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:


BC Forest Safety Booth 28

BC Ministry of Finance Booth 42

BC Timber Sales Booth 11

BID Group of Companies Booth 9

Brunette Machinery Company Inc. Booth 24 & 25

Canadian Forest Industries Magazine (CFI) Booth 31

Canadian Women in Timber Booth 0

CN Booth 37 & 38

Denning Health Booth 40

DLA Piper (Canada) LLP Booth 45

DO2 Industrial Booth 35

EECOL Electric Booth 30

Farris, Vaughan, Wills & Murphy LLP Booth 4

Finning Booth 47

Forest Practices Board Booth 43

Forestry Innovation Investment Booth 34

FPInnovations Booth 36

Halco Software Systems Ltd. Booth 21

HewSaw Machines Inc. Booth 12

Industrial Autolube Booth 41

Leavitt Machinery Booth 33

Lim Geomatics Inc. Booth 2

LINCK GmbH Booth 18

Logging and Sawmilling Journal (LSJ) Booth 39

Lucidyne Technologies, Inc. Booth 5

Mill Tech Industries Booth 1

Murray Latta Progressive Machine Inc. Booth 26 & 27

Nicholson Manufacturing Booth 7

Optimil Machinery Inc. Booth 6

Porter Engineering Ltd. Booth 17

Raptor Integration Inc. Booth 16

Samuel Packaging Systems Group Booth 8

SCSFP by Finna Booth 13

SiCam Systems Booth 19

Signode Canada Booth 48

Springer Microtec Booth 29

Sustainable Forestry Initiative Booth 23

USNR Booth 20

Valutec Wood Dryers Inc. Booth 44

VETS Group Booth 15

VK North America, Inc. Booth 50

Wesgroup Equipment Booth 32

Westburne Booth 49

Wolftek Industries Inc. Booth 14

WoodWorks! (CWC) Booth 46


Logging and Sawmilling Journal
February 2018

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

The Edge
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.


Tech Update

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