Responses to Media

Log Export Ban Advocates are Barking up the Wrong Tree. Again.

BC’s private forest operations generate 5,000 family supporting rural jobs, $150 million in taxes and over $1 billion in economic activity annually.

An openly partisan coalition of labour unions and internationally funded environmental activists opposed to BC timber harvesting, are once again promoting the myth that a ban on log exports is the best solution to ensure more logs are milled here in BC.

This idea is callously disrespectful to the thousands of hardworking rural men and women who rely on the log export trade for their livelihoods. Not to mention, dangerous because it ignores almost all the evidence of the situation, as well as a shameful waste of time because it focuses on the symptom of the problem, rather than focusing on making BC an attractive place to build new mills.

It takes decades to grow a timber crop. During that time millions of dollars are spent on planting, protecting and tending trees. BC’s private forest operations are proud of the fact that our efforts generate 5,000 family supporting rural jobs, $150 million in taxes and over $1 billion in economic activity annually. Banning log exports would destroy this sector overnight.

We understand that the public would like to see more logs milled in BC – we would too. The ability to sell our logs to local mills at competitive prices is warmly welcomed, but until BC mills are globally competitive again, the log export trade is the only thing keeping our people working and the wheels turning.

BC lumber mills themselves are curiously absent from the list of log export ban supporters. The primary reason for this is that the mills don’t need, or want a log export ban.

BC mills already have full control over where the wood goes. Every log exported from BC must by law first be ruled surplus to local needs. This gives mills incredible leverage and means they can dictate log prices (among the lowest in the world = why the log export market is so attractive) with guaranteed access to all the wood they want, at prices they control.

Mills are also staying out of the public discussion because Canada’s trading partners around the globe are already unhappy about BC’s existing private land export surplus test restrictions. In fact, as part of the latest round of softwood lumber talks, the US notes that private land log export restrictions are a direct subsidy to Canadian lumber production.

Coastal BC mills also understand that artificially low domestic log prices cannot support sustainable forest stewardship. The extra dollars paid for logs by overseas mills support harvesting activity and subsidize domestic log sales.

The recent increase in log export volumes cited by Ben Parfitt and others has been generated entirely from public lands.* In fact, private land log exports, which are largely federally, not provincially regulated, have decreased during the same period as local mills increasingly use the surplus test to interfere with the export trade, and acquire privately owned logs at discounted rates.

There is a timber surplus in coastal BC because there is a lack of mill capacity. There is a lack of mill capacity because coastal BC is currently not an attractive place to make mill investments.

There is zero evidence to support the naïve claim that more mills would suddenly be built in BC if log exports were banned. Surplus-test log export restrictions have been in place here for many decades, yet mill investments continue to occur not here, but far away.

The reality is, nobody can afford to borrow money and build a mill that won’t generate sufficient profits, and currently there are more profitable places to build mills than coastal BC. It’s telling that despite the timber surplus on the coast, major BC lumber companies — Canfor, West Fraser, Interfor, Teal Jones and others — have all invested in US mills. Russia’s log export restrictions are similarly ineffective at attracting mill investments.

If the goal is to put an abrupt and complete halt to the coastal timber growing and harvesting sector, then a log export ban is the way to go. If, as the United Steelworkers (whose members enjoy both mill and woods jobs) suggest, the goal is to encourage a thriving milling sector, then finding a solution will require a lot more than idealistic rhetoric.

We believe that getting the facts out is the only way to promote informed discussion and promote positive policy development. For more information, please go to www.pfla.bc.ca

*Between 2007 and 2014, private land log exports decreased by about 3%, while Crown land log exports increased by about 606%.

 

Wilderness Committee prescription for BC coast forest sector would kill the patient*

Between 10 and 15 million seedlings are planted on BC’s private managed forest lands each year.

In a misleading and inaccurate article published in the Times Colonist (January 11th) and Huffington Post (January 12th), the Wilderness Committee calls for a ban on BC log exports.

This statement shows a complete disregard for the realities of the coastal forest industry, along with a callous disrespect for forest workers and their families. Quite simply, a log export ban would collapse the coastal BC forest industry and destroy many more jobs than it would create.

The Wilderness Committee also fails to make a clear distinction between the public interest in taxpayer-owned timber grown on public land and privately owned timber grown on private land.

The Private Forest Landowners Association (PFLA) promotes responsible forest stewardship of BC’s private forest lands. Our members are committed to long-term management of our lands and timber crops.

Private forest owners seek to freely trade the timber we grow on our own private lands, entirely at our own cost, to the highest bidder. Like farmers, and any other business that generates jobs and benefits for society, we believe that running a profitable enterprise, and seeking top value for our product, is a reasonable expectation and completely necessary for sustainable forest management.

Forest owners look to export markets for our harvested logs because our operations would not survive without access to international log prices. We would happily sell our logs domestically if we could obtain the true international price.

Selling our logs below the cost of production is not an option if we want to sustain our businesses and continue to provide jobs, maintain forests, and support our communities.

Here are a few key facts:

  • Annually, BC’s private forest lands provide 5,000 jobs, contribute over $1 billion in economic activity, and generate $150 million in tax revenue.
  • Log exports are an entirely acceptable, normal, routine trade activity carried out by every major timber growing country around the world.
  • The BC coast has a huge timber surplus and coastal BC log processing capacity continues to decline.
  • Coastal forests now grow and harvest more logs than coastal mills can digest at a ratio of 2:1.
  • If domestic log prices were competitive, there would be no incentive to export logs to better markets.
  • Domestic coastal BC log prices are discounted as much as 50% from the true international price.
  • The discounted prices offered in the domestic log market do not support sustainable, responsible forest stewardship.
  • A log export ban without a viable domestic market would destroy our entire sector and all the benefits we generate.
  • BC’s log export “surplus test” policy ensures that not one single log may be exported before local demand has been met.
  • Without the ability to obtain full price for the portion of logs exported, it would not be possible to sell any discounted logs to local mills—this means, local mill jobs are entirely dependent on log exports.
  • Without access to the export market the entire coastal forest sector would grind to an abrupt halt.

Log processing and value adding is a harshly competitive business, and only occurs sustainably where labour costs, operating costs, taxes and regulations are internationally competitive. Low fibre costs alone are not the solution—proof of this is that while BC has the lowest priced logs in the world, value adding investment in BC is dismally minimal.

The best way to reduce log exports is to have a strong, competitive processing sector. Many forest owners, and workers like us, would have a great deal more respect for the Wilderness Committee if they told the truth, or put their money where their mouth is by investing in a BC coastal sawmill, and offered tree growers international prices for our logs.

*In an earlier version of this post, we made an error and referred to the Sierra Club instead of the Wilderness Committee. Sincere apologies for the mistake. Thanks to Torrance Coste for bringing it to our attention.

Log Exports: A Symptom Not a Cause

log exportsIn June 2016, a report produced by the Truck Loggers Association reignited a conversation about the future of forestry and the role log exports play in the coastal forest industry.

PFLA was quoted in two articles—one from the Vancouver Sun and another from Business in Vancouver.

Unfortunately, from our perspective, neither article got it quite right.

Because we’re passionate about sustainable forest management, and deeply invested in the future of B.C.’s forest industry, it’s worth spending some time to clarify inaccuracies and misconceptions in the spirit of informed discussion and better understanding.

(For those of you who’ve heard this all before thanks for your patience.)

There is more than enough timber available for coastal mills.

A surplus of logs exists on the coast of B.C. In 2013, total coastal log harvest was 18.6 million cubic meters, while coastal mill consumption was 12.0 million cubic meters. In other words, harvested timber volume exceeded coastal mill capacity by 6.6 million cubic meters.

Domestic mills get first dibs on logs in B.C.

Logs cannot be exported from the B.C. coast without first being offered to domestic buyers. Not only that, log prices to local mills are artificially held below international market prices. Log export restrictions allow domestic buyers to ignore true market prices and block export permit applications with offers of contrived “domestic” market prices (sometimes as low as half the international price).

Log exports are a symptom of mill closures, not a cause.

Because the surplus test ensures logs cannot be exported until domestic demand is satisfied (at deeply discounted, artificially low prices) log exports cannot possibly be the cause of mill closures.

The coastal forest industry wouldn’t exist without log exports.

Ironically, without log exports domestic mills wouldn’t have any logs at all. It’s the ability to export logs to the international market that keeps log producers profitable. Thousands of well-paying jobs, economic activity, Crown land stumpage and tax revenues all grind to a halt without log exports.

Log export restrictions are a subsidy, not a solution.

Despite access to the cheapest logs on earth, for over a century, mills are, and will continue, closing in British Columbia. Restricting log exports from private land does not solve this problem. Under log surplus conditions, to maintain a surplus test for logs from private land, using domestic not international prices, serves only to suppress log prices and transfer value from tree growers to mills.

Private growers would prefer to sell logs locally.

Private landowners are happy to sell logs into the domestic market at competitive international prices, but selling our products at a loss, and subsidising other sectors, is not sustainable. In 2014, forest owners lost over 45 million dollars as a result of log export restrictions.

The majority of log exports come from Crown land.

Both articles state the majority of log exports come from private land. This isn’t true. It was at one point, but today, log exports from Crown lands exceed private lands by almost 50%. Between 2007 and 2014, private land log exports decreased by about 3%, while Crown land log exports increased by about 606%.

Log exports create jobs too.

Mill jobs aren’t the only jobs that matter. Over 4,750 people, and their families, rely on BC’s managed private forest lands for their livelihoods—tree planters, biologists, foresters, engineers, mechanics, fallers, loggers, road builders, tree nursery staff, clerical and support personnel. Together, these jobs generate over 1 billion dollars in annual economic activity, along with 150 million dollars in annual tax revenues.

For other perspectives on the surplus test and log export restrictions in BC see this story or pages 10 and 12 of this issue of the ABCFP journal.

Public Attention for Private Forests—Silviculture Magazine

In a province where 95% of the land is publicly owned, it’s not surprising misinformation persists about the policies and programs in place to ensure the responsible stewardship of the roughly 2% of B.C. that is privately owned forest land.

Most people support sustainable forest management, but given the preponderance of publicly owned forest land they’re used to thinking about forest management in the context of a Crown land model. As private forest owners, we’re in the business of growing and harvesting trees. We strive to balance environmental values, community interests and economic realities, and take every opportunity we can to educate the public about the unique contributions that private forestry makes to the overall landscape of forest management in the province.

 

Private managed forestry basics

With roots as far back as the 1940’s, private managed forest land is a property assessment classification designed to encourage forest owners to manage their land for long-term forest production. Offering competitive property taxes as an incentive to encourage responsible farm and forest stewardship is a common policy tool used across North America and throughout the world.

As a public policy instrument, the model is essentially a partnership between forest owners and the provincial government whereby landowners assume the associated risks of investing in land and management activities, while the province offers stability in carrying costs and forest practices regulations.

As of March 31, 2012, the Private Managed Forest Program comprises 823,582 hectares, approximately half of BC’s private forest lands, or less than 1% of the total land base. Roughly 75% of private managed forest land occurs on the coast (primarily on Vancouver Island).

To receive the managed forest land classification a property must be at least 25 hectares and managed as a single unit. Managed forests range from small family-owned properties of a few dozen hectares to large-scale forestry operations with thousands of hectares.

Forest owners commit to follow provincial forest practices standards and environmental protections in order to obtain the managed forest classification. Land assessed as managed forest land is regulated by the Private Managed Forest Land Act and owners are bound by law to protect the following key public environmental values:

  • Fish habitat
  • Water quality
  • Soil conservation
  • Critical wildlife habitat
  • Reforestation

Successive independent audits demonstrate the protection of these values, on managed private forest land, meets or exceeds the standard of protection, for the same values, on managed Crown land.

The Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations is responsible for the Private Managed Forest Land Act which enables the program and creates the Private Managed Forest Land Council—an independent agency in charge of administering the program. The Land Tenures Branch acts as the liaison with the PMFL Council and addresses any public concerns.

 

Regulatory requirements of the private land model

BC’s private managed forest lands are governed by a regulatory model that works in harmony with over 30 federal and provincial acts and regulations to protect public values. Operating under an approved management commitment, owners follow specific, results-based regulations.

Owners are required by law to report their forest management activities annually and are subject to regular forest practices audits. In fact, active private managed forest owners are audited more often (usually annually) than the Forest Practices Board audits public land licencees.

Penalties for failing to meet environmental laws on private land are financially significant, comparable to public land penalties, and government can take immediate measures to prevent further regulatory non-compliances by imposing stop-work and remediation orders.

Forest owners have additional incentives to meet or exceed legal requirements to protect environmental values. For example, a single non-compliance event can risk valuable third-party forest management certification. This is detrimental to forest owners who rely on third-party certification to maintain the confidence of neighbouring communities and satisfy their customers’ demand for sustainably managed forest products.

 

Recognizing the urban interface: howdy neighbour!

Today, much of private forestry is practiced right next door to some of Canada’s fastest growing communities. With an annual growth rate of 1.4% over the past 5 years, the population of Vancouver Island now surpasses 750,000 people—a staggering increase over the 1981 population of 495, 000 people. With more people comes more development—communities, subdivisions, parks, shopping malls, grocery stores, soccer fields, hiking trails—none of which existed decades ago when forest owners planted the trees they’re harvesting today.

As stewards of second and third growth forests in the urban interface, owners face unique challenges as community members share their views and expectations about appropriate measures to safeguard water supplies, manage viewscapes, or obtain access to recreation opportunities—hiking, biking, horseback riding, off-road vehicles. As a result, private forestry operators engage residents, elected officials, water management staff and other interested and affected parties to ensure key audiences clearly understand the detailed steps taken to balance the needs of the forest management operation with the needs of the community. Simply put: good, old-fashioned neighbourly behavior.

 

Reforestation: a legal obligation and a logical conclusion

Managed forest owners are the only landowners in BC legally obligated to reforest after timber harvesting. We’re also the only land managers (including the Crown) who are legally obligated to reforest where timber was destroyed as a result of natural events like fire, windstorm or insect infestation. Even without legal obligations, forest owners have a vested interest in replanting as soon as possible. Think of it this way: we’re tree farmers. Growing timber is our crop. It’s what we do. Can you imagine a regulator telling a farmer how and when to feed the cows, or how and when to plant the potatoes?  It’s not necessary. That’s what farmers do.

That’s why there’s no NSR on private managed forest land. It’s just not a problem. The legislation allows up to five years for reforestation, but typically delays on managed forest land are measured in months (usually within 6) rather than years. Fast, efficient reforestation ensures the harvested site is quickly re-colonised with commercially valuable trees, of our choice, rather than non-commercial brush or slower growing, less valuable tree species. Prompt reforestation gives tender young tree seedlings a jump on brush that aggressively competes for light, moisture and nutrients.

 

A Success Story Worth Telling

In the end, it’s not about determining whether there’s sufficient government oversight on private land, but rather a matter of understanding a completely different model of ownership and responsibility. A results-oriented regulatory approach, like the private land model, leverages a dynamic unique to private land: owners are held fully responsible for their actions. In contrast, the multiple and overlapping licencees, authorizing agencies and users, found on public land, often make it difficult to determine who’s responsible for what.

It’s this combination of sensible government incentives, continued private investment and a strong desire, on the part of the owners, to steward the land responsibly that creates a model of private forest management where roughly 10% of the annual timber harvest comes from just 2% of the land base. Private forests are a key component of B.C.’s forest industry, and with the right public policy environment we’ll continue to tell the success story of private forestry, to the benefit of all British Columbians, for a long time to come.

 

* This article was published in the Spring 2013 issue of Sivliculture Magazine.

Province’s Role in Cortes Island Logging Dispute?

Protesters seeking to disrupt private land timber harvesting on Cortes Island continue to draw attention from local media. In early December, PFLA responded to a CTV News Vancouver Island story in hopes of correcting misinformation about regulation on private managed forest land.

Two recent editorial articles suggest confusion about the protection of key public environmental values on managed forest land persists.

“…which means that there is no real government oversight and private land foresters ultimately get to decide what constitutes compliance.” — Provincial Oversight Missing in Cortes Logging Dispute, published in the Campbell River Mirror, December 11, 2012.

“… companies like Timberlands are allowed to apply a model of “professional reliance” which means that there is little meaningful regulatory oversight.” —Province Forsaken Its Role on Cortes, published in Monday Magazine, December 13, 2012.

Both editorials reflect a perception, in some quarters, of insufficient government oversight regarding forest management practices on private forest lands. As representatives of private forest owners, dedicated to the responsible stewardship of BC’s private forest lands, we’ll take another stab at clearing things up.

Simply put, lack of oversight allegations are untrue.

Provincial and federal governments maintain oversight and control by investigating and penalizing any regulatory non-compliance brought to their attention through inspections, reports, and regular forest practices audits.

Active owners of managed forest land are audited every single year. In contrast, Crown land licencees are audited, on average, once every five to ten years.

Any member of the public with grounds for complaint can bring an allegation of non-compliance to the appropriate regulatory agency and an investigation will follow.

Enforcement of federal, provincial and local government regulations on private managed forest land is conducted by a long list of regulatory agencies, including: Environment Canada; Fisheries & Oceans Canada; Parks Canada; Ministry of Environment, Ministry of Forests, Lands & Natural Resource Operations; and the Private Managed Forest Land Council.

The Private Managed Forest Land Council is the regulatory agency responsible for the Managed Forest Program. They have a responsive regulatory process that swings into action to complete investigations, and take enforcement actions, significantly sooner than the public land model.

Penalties for failing to meet environmental laws on private land are financially significant, comparable to public land penalties and government can take immediate measures to prevent further regulatory non-compliances by imposing stop-work and remediation orders.

Forest owners have additional incentives to meet or exceed legal requirements. For example, a single non-compliance event can jeopardise valuable third-party forest management certification. This is detrimental to forest owners who rely on third-party certification to maintain the confidence of neighbouring communities and satisfy their customers’ demand for sustainably managed forest products.

This is a results-oriented regulatory approach that leverages a dynamic unique to private land: owners are held fully responsible for their actions. In contrast, multiple and overlapping licencees, authorizing agencies and users, found on public land, make it difficult to determine who’s responsible for what. This dynamic is often referred to as “the tragedy of the commons”.

In our view, it’s not a question of determining whether there’s sufficient government oversight on private land, but rather a matter of understanding a completely different model of ownership and responsibility.

PFLA is committed to raising awareness about private forest management and we welcome your questions and comments.

Addendum: The Association of BC Forest Professionals also wrote a response to the Campbell River Mirror editorial, published December 20, 2012, to correct what in their view was a misleading and inaccurate assessment of professional reliance.

Logging Protest on Cortes Island: Media Misinformation

Protesters on Cortes Island are blocking Island Timberlands’ crews from harvesting timber on their privately owned land. You’ve likely seen video coverage of the Cortes Island situation or read news stories about the logging protest. We’ve included a video below from CTV News Vancouver Island (aired Friday, November 30th, 2012) for the purpose of correcting misinformation.

At about 2:02 minutes into the video, you’ll hear Leah Seltzer of Wildstands Community Alliance say:

“… facing challenges with these privately managed forest companies not having any legally binding regulations on their lands.”

This statement is completely false. As representatives of private managed forest owners across the province of B.C. we couldn’t let it slide.

Here’s the truth. Land assessed as Managed Forest Land Class is regulated by the Private Managed Forest Land Act and owners are bound by law to protect the following key public environmental values:

  • Fish habitat
  • Water quality
  • Soil conservation
  • Critical wildlife habitat
  • Reforestation

Not only are these values protected, but successive independent audits show the protection of these values on private managed forest land meets or exceeds the standard of protection on public lands.

The Private Managed Forest Land Council is the provincial regulatory agency, overseen by the Ministry of Forest, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, to administer the Managed Forest Program.

Along with the Private Managed Forest Land Act, there are more than 30 acts and regulations that apply to managed forest land, including:

  • Fisheries Act
  • Water Act
  • Species At Risk Act
  • Wildlife Act
  • Drinking Water Protection Act
  • Wildfire Act
  • Heritage Conservation Act
  • Assessment Act
  • Environmental Management Act
  • Forest Act
  • Forest and Range Practices Act
  • Forest Practices Code of BC Act
  • Hazardous Products Act
  • Integrated Pest Management Act
  • Regional District Zoning Standards

So, yes—private managed forest companies are subject to legally binding regulations. In fact, they’re subject to a rigorous and comprehensive federal and provincial regulatory model that helps maintain some of the most productive and well-managed forests you’ll find anywhere in the world.

6 Basic Facts Everyone Should Know About BC’s Log Exports

BC log exports was a hot topic last week – in the legislature, in the newspapers and in the spirited conversations of workers, families and communities who depend on the forest industry for their livelihoods.

 Like most hot topics, the log export debate is often riddled with misinformation, rhetoric and assumptions. Here at the PFLA blog, we represent people who directly benefit from private forestry operations. We’d like to take a few moments to clear things up from our perspective.

6 Basic Facts Everyone Should Know About Log Exports in BC

1.  Log exports are essential to private forestry.

Without access to log export markets, none of the 3,000-plus people directly employed in the stewardship of BC’s coastal private managed forest land would be working today.

2.   A surplus of timber is available to sawmills, pulp mills and value-added manufacturers on the BC coast. 

We’ve said it before, but we’ll say it again: there is no log shortage. In fact, there’s a surplus of logs. Here’s the math:

  • Timber available for harvest and processing = 24 million cubic meters
  • Domestic processing capacity = 16 million cubic meters
  • The difference = 8 million cubic meters of surplus logs

3.   Domestic sawmills need to take responsibility for their own  “supply” problems.

There are plenty of logs available on the BC coast. If domestic sawmills want to ensure an adequate supply of logs, there are a number of ways to do it:

  • Offer competitive log prices.
  • Fully harvest public land timber quotas.
  • Buy logs on the open market from First Nations, market loggers, community forests, woodlot licences and BC Timber Sales (BCTS) operators.
  • Bid directly for timber available through BCTS timber sales.

4.   Log prices are the issue, not log shortages.

BC has the world’s lowest log prices. Domestic sawmills offer prices lower than production costs. The result: No incentive to produce and sell logs to domestic sawmills. Here’s some more math:

  • Cost per cubic meter to produce a log from coastal public lands = $78
  • Typical log price offered (Teal Jones) = $60
  • Recent low-ball log price offer = $43
  • Average price of the same logs sold to export customers = $90

5.   Log exports are NOT the cause of mill closures and job losses.

In fact, without log exports domestic mills wouldn’t have any timber at all. There would be no forest stewardship and no log production. The ability to sell some logs at a premium (log exports) is the only reason it’s economically viable to sell other logs, at artificially low prices, to domestic mills. Jobs, economic activity, crown land stumpage and tax revenues all grind to a halt without log exports.

6.   There’s no such thing as a raw log.

Manufactured logs are no different than any other product – lumber, pulp, poles, veneer – they are but one in a mix of many forest products. A product, that at this point in time, plays an essential role in keeping the boat of BC forest stewardship afloat.

Please visit Log Exports: A Symptom Not a Cause for a slightly updated and revised version.