By Jim Stirling
It’s like a long awaited reunion with an old friend: the Council of Forest Industries of British Columbia (COFI) is poised for its first in-person annual convention in three years.
The gala event is scheduled for the J.W. Marriott Parq Vancouver Hotel and Convention Centre April 27-29, and will follow all public health guidelines.
Returning to some semblance of normalcy has been the hope since the World Health Organization declared the spread of COVID-19 a global pandemic. That happened in the spring of 2020 although it seems much longer ago.
Since then, business and social routines on most levels have been suspended while the virus and its variants have flourished and proved remarkably unrelenting and resilient to control efforts.
Large gatherings of people like those attracted by the COFI convention were one of the pandemic’s earliest victims. And understandably so. The COFI convention attracts forest industry CEOs, vice presidents, executives and senior managers representing major forest companies across North America and from overseas.
The event is also red-lettered on the calendars of senior representatives from the industry’s key customers, suppliers, financial institutions and law firms. Government representatives on all levels are keen participants in COFI conventions including representatives of the federal, provincial, regional, local and First Nations governments.
The 2020 COFI convention was cancelled while an abbreviated virtual version of the event helped fill the void in 2021. The events of the last couple of years introduced what now seem perfectly normal behaviours. Phenomena like abandoning the office to work from home; social distancing; wearing face masks and following vaccination protocols have all become common practices.
Another symbol of ‘COVIDizing’ an event against the virus’ spread that will be employed at the COFI AGM will be the visibility of hand sanitizers around the convention floor. For example, the sanitizers will be sharing space on delegate tables along with the water glasses, notebooks and pencils.
The convention’s trappings maybe have altered but not the quality of its contents. “We have planned a very robust agenda,” promises Susan Yurkovich, COFI’s CEO based in Vancouver. The anticipation has been amply demonstrated. The numbers provide an illustration. Delegate registrations have been much stronger earlier than in previous conventions, notes Yurkovich. Additionally, the convention’s popular trade show component was sold out by the end of January, she reports.
Convention program details were being confirmed when the Logging & Sawmilling Journal went to press (the latest information is available at cofi.org). Informative and stimulating speakers are a recurring feature of COFI conventions. “We’ve invited B.C.’s forests minister (Katrine Conroy) and the premier (John Horgan) to join us,” says Yurkovich. And traditional COFI convention favourites like the always provocative CEO’s panel discussion will return in 2022.
There is no lack of concerns and issues facing the B.C. forest industry. COFI convention delegates will be hoping to hear some clarification and context from the convention’s participants.
Unfortunately, one issue just won’t go away. The most recent chapter in the saga officially began in November 2021 when the U.S. Department of Commerce set its countervailing and anti-dumping duty rates on Canadian softwood lumber producers.
“While not unexpected, we are disappointed with the doubling of the duties on softwood lumber for Canadian producers,” responded COFI’s Yurkovich in her role as president of the B.C. Lumber Trade Council. “As we have repeatedly stated, these unfair duties hurt not only B.C. businesses and workers but also U.S. consumers looking to repair, remodel and build new homes. As U.S. producers remain unable to meet domestic demand, these duties are a threat to post-pandemic recovery on both sides of the border.”
The Canadian government responded as it habitually has to the U.S. aggression. A challenge to the U.S. imposition of duties was issued under the Canada-U.S.-Mexico Agreement, the free trade agreement between the three countries.
“Our continued hope is that the U.S. industry will end this decades-long dispute and instead work with us to meet demand for the low carbon wood products the world needs, including American families. Until then we will vigorously defend our industry against these baseless claims and thank the Government of Canada for standing with forest product workers and their families,” stated Yurkovich.
The U.S. remains the largest market for B.C. manufactured forest products (56 per cent). China is the second largest B.C. market at 24 per cent followed by Japan at seven per cent.
It doesn’t garner many headlines but B.C. and Canada along with its other partners continue the methodical and sometimes painstaking process toward market acceptance and development for wood products (see the green product sidebar story below). A significant percentage of the market development spadework is focused on South Korea, India and Southeast Asia.
Many forest industry executives attending the COFI convention will be understandably concerned right now with what’s happening closer to home, in some cases quite literally in their own backyards. “We are in a period of change and volatility both here and around the world,” prefaces Yurkovich.
She characterizes as “stunning” the accumulative effects of proposed and implemented changes in B.C. forest policy introduced in the last four years or so by the provincial NDP government. They include the government’s two-year moratorium on forest industry access to designated old growth timber stands in the province that are not already under protection.
The provincial government proposes re-distributing the cut to promote more secondary wood product remanufacturing,
put more wood in the hands of First Nations and help forest dependent communities in B.C. How that might work in practice and how company assets can be fairly compensated in the event of re-distribution remains unclear. More importantly, the question is how will B.C. can attract the capital to invest with all of the added turmoil and confusion this has created for the provincial forest industry.
“What the forest industry really needs is some stability,” urges Yurkovich. “And a balanced, facts-based approach to changes. These things are critically important for the B.C forest industry to continue to be an economic engine in BC and deliver low carbon products the world wants and needs.”
Wood products manufactured in British Columbia have the solid green credentials the world is consistently favouring—and this is likely to be a topic under discussion among delegates to the COFI annual convention.
Societies around the globe are seeking effective ways to offset some of the negative implications of Climate Change. Sustainably harvested and manufactured B.C.-made wood products, including lumber veneer and plywood, store carbon for as long as they’re in use.
The phenomenon is a critical part of the carbon cycle and is not shared by concrete, steel and other traditional building product systems.
COFI notes that B.C.’s forest management approach plays a role in how Canada will meet its carbon emissions targets for the long term, and contributes to climate change mitigation in a number of different ways.
Carbon remains in the wood not only for the life of the tree, but for decades after in products such as lumber, millwork or furniture. For example, a typical 2500 square-foot wood frame home is estimated to have 30 metric tonnes of carbon stored in it, the equivalent of driving your car for seven years.
Incorporating more wood products into buildings represents a concept that is gathering traction. Some climate models have indicated that the B.C. forest sector has the potential to contribute up to 35 per cent of B.C.’s 2050 emission reduction target.
“We need to understand the carbon retention and storage in wood harvested from B.C. forests,” points out Werner Kurz, a senior researcher with Natural Resources Canada. “In the built environment, this presents opportunities to reduce our use of concrete, plastics and steel which all have emission impacts,” he adds.
The B.C. government is encouraging the use of more wood in provincially-owned buildings. It has established a Wood First initiative. Included in the concept is encouraging wood product value-added innovation. The initiative aims to promote climate-friendly construction methods and support the many forestry dependent communities in the province.
B.C. has initiated building code changes allowing the construction of six storey wood frame buildings. More recently, the provincial government has been encouraging the use of mass timber in buildings where primary load bearing structures are constructed from solid or engineered wood.
On the Cover:
The payback in doing your due diligence on mobile equipment purchases can be rewarding in a number of ways, everything from more efficient operations to operator satisfaction—and the Weyerhaeuser sawmill in Princeton, B.C. is seeing that in spades these days, with their new Sennebogen 850E machine, the largest Sennebogen log loader operating in Western Canada (Cover photo by Paul MacDonald).
Log haul convoys being lined up …
Semi-autonomous log haul convoys—that could help address driver shortages—may be in the cards for northern Ontario, with a pilot project having been completed this past summer.
Conference coming up in April
Attendees to the Council of Forest Industries of B.C.’s (COFI) annual convention will have plenty to talk about at the first in-person convention to be held in three years, being held in Vancouver April 27 to 29.
Brothers in forestry...and sawmilling
Two brothers—both foresters—have built a hardwood sawmill chain that works out of the forests of Ontario’s well-known Cottage Country, north of Toronto.
Doing your due diligence on equipment purchases
The folks at a Weyerhaeuser sawmill in B.C. did their due diligence with their new log loader—and that homework is now paying off with a very productive new Sennebogen machine.
Turnkey timber technology
Georgia-Pacific Lumber has brought another new high-tech sawmill on stream, provided on a turnkey basis by B.C.-based sawmill equipment supplier, BID Group.
B.C. salvage project delivers solid results
A few different log harvesting and wood grinding outfits were involved in a recent wildfire salvage project—that delivered solid results—in the Clinton Community Forest in the B.C. Interior.
Included in this edition of The Edge, Canada’s leading publication on research in the forest industry, is a story from the Canadian Wood Fibre Centre (CWFC).
We take a look at the new features in log grapples.
The Last Word
The B.C. government is risking dimming the lights in the province’s forest industry with its recent decisions, including deferring harvesting of 2.6 million hectares of Crown-owned old growth forests.