Responses to Media

Who Else Wants a Refreshingly Sensible Analysis of Why B.C. Families, Workers and Communities Rely on Log Exports?

We sure do. You’ve probably noticed; PFLA believes (for good reasons) that log export markets play an important role in sustaining BC’s forest economy (PFLA Is Not Alone: Testimonials on B.C. Log Exports; 5 Reasons Why Rallying Against Log Exports is Misguided).

Jim Girvan’s article, Log Exports: The Controversial Economic Driver, appeared on in early December. Along with a reasoned account of B.C.’s coastal export market, the article includes bar graphs and statistical information that add a depth of analysis to the log export discussion we think you’ll find interesting.

Below are a few highlights, but you can (and we recommend it) read the complete article, here.

A few highlights (paraphrased):  

“We can debate which logs to export and what the process should be to export them, but what we shouldn’t be doing is talking about banning log exports.”

“Over 4,000 coastal BC jobs are supported by log exports alone (assuming an economic multiple of 0.81 jobs per 1000 cubic metres harvested, direct and indirect).”

“If every coastal mill got every log they need to operate fully, there would still be eight million cubic metres of potential harvest left over, some of which is exported today.”

“The cost to deliver coastal logs to mills is too high when we try to use those logs to make lumber. The raw material (log) cost alone for producing lumber is $296. Today, China consumers pay $255 for lumber.”

“Log exports are just another market for one of many products produced by the coastal BC forest industry. Manufactured logs are no different than lumber, pulp, poles or veneer and they provide a significant contribution to the coastal and BC economy.”

“Without mills, prepared and able to pay what it costs to harvest our low value forests, there are no jobs to be created.”

Thanks to Jim Girvan for his thoughtful, reasoned perspective.


Managed Forest Owners Respond to BC’s Burning Question

It’s that time of year again: wildfire hazards are minimal, municipal bylaws are lifted and the burning season begins. Farming, forestry, industry, residential – there’s a lot of burning going on. Unfortunately, where there’s fire, there’s smoke – often, lots of smoke.

Human use of fire to manage B.C.’s forests is about as old as the forests themselves. As private managed forest owners we know a lot about prescribed burning – how to minimize community hazards and improve forest health.

Here are 4 important things to know about what forest owners burn, and why.

1. Burning is about keeping our forests, our neighbours and our communities safe.

Forest debris is a fire hazard. The timber harvesting process leaves behind piles of unmerchantable debris – broken tops, limbs, rotten wood.

It’s a much safer idea to use planned, controlled burns to remove the debris than to leave piles of “fuel” lying around for chance encounters with lightening, human ignorance (e.g. cigarettes) and other fire hazards. Over 50% of BC wildfires are caused by human activity.

2. Burning is a last resort (or, wed sell it if we could).

One person’s debris is another person’s treasure. In Europe, the material we’re burning is worth $75 per tonne at roadside. It’s true. They get more for firewood than we get for saw logs.

There is no market for the fibre that finds its way into burn piles. If there were a market, we’d happily sell, rather than burn. For now, burning is the most responsible way to manage our forests.

3. Managed forest owners burn responsibly and plan our activities to minimize disturbances. 

Nobody likes smoke. Nobody. That’s why we plan and manage our activities to minimize the frequency, duration, and intensity of smoke. Here’s how:

Burning dry material creates significantly less smoke than burning wet material.

  • Log loader operators take time and care to deliberately stack burn piles into beehive shape structures that facilitate drying.
  • We cover debris piles with tarps to keep them dry.
  • We check weather conditions before burning – temperature inversion and venting indexes affect how smoke moves (especially for valley dwellers). 

4. Fire and prescribed burning are important tools for managing B.C.’s forests.

Especially, forests full of fire-dependant species like Douglas fir and lodgepole pine. The key is to do it responsibly, to act in a way that minimizes health hazards and maximizes forest health. A great deal of time was spent to evaluate, analyze and legislate responsible practices. Follow the open burn regulations and guidelines in place to protect everyone. We do.

5 Reasons Why Rallying Against Log Exports is Misguided

faller cutting a tree in the forestThe article Rally against log exports is planned for Nanaimo appeared in the September 22, 2011 online edition of the Nanaimo Daily News. The rally is scheduled for September 28, 2011.

According to the Nanaimo Daily News, hundreds of loggers, and other concerned citizens, opposed to log exports will gather at the Pulp, Paper and Woodworkers of Canada (PPWC), Local 8, union hall before marching through the streets of downtown Nanaimo, B.C.

While the PFLA commends the spirit of Mr. Bercov, and his associates, we’re quite frankly a bit baffled by their opposition to log exports.

Here’s why:

1. B.C. has a surplus of timber.

That’s right, a surplus of timber. Each year, millions of cubic metres of trees go unharvested. These are trees planted, grown and approved for harvest as part of the annual allowable cut (AAC). We’ve said it before, but we’ll say it again: there is no shortage of timber in B.C.

2. B.C.’s domestic market for logs has collapsed.

Sawmills on the B.C. coast don’t have the capacity to process the available timber. Present processing capacity is 15.5 million cubic metres; available timber is 24 million cubic metres (that’s a difference of 8.5 million cubic metres per year, or approximately double the log export volume).

3. B.C. mills buy logs at prices lower than log production costs. 

What it costs to plant, tend and harvest trees exceeds the log prices offered by struggling B.C. sawmills. Uncompetitive mills use the government’s surplus test policy to obtain logs at reduced domestic prices, often significantly less than their international competitors.

4. The log export business is keeping the coastal forest industry alive.

Isn’t this ironic? Without access to a better price for a portion of the harvested timber (the portion exported in the round to international markets) nobody could afford to harvest trees. If nobody goes to work in the woods there are no logs for domestic mills.

5. B.C.’s forest workers, families and communities count on getting the best price for timber. 

Relying on the domestic log market is not a viable option. The woods support thousands of rural jobs, but only when log prices are high enough to cover the costs associated with planting, tending, managing, and harvesting timber.

In light of what we consider to be pretty compelling information, we encourage Mr. Bercov, and his associates, to re-evaluate rallying against log exports. Forestry in B.C. is in a state of flux, now more than ever, it’s important to consider the facts, as they are.

What do you think? We look forward to your comments and suggestions.

Why Myths About BC Forests Won’t Create Jobs (of any Colour)

Ben Parfitt’s article How to Create Green Jobs in BC’s Forests appeared in the August 15, 2011 online edition of the Tyee (link to full article).

In a nutshell, Mr. Parfitt criticizes the BC forest industry for exporting raw logs to China. He argues that diversifying markets and value-added products are the vehicles we need to move this province, its forests and its communities forward to a better place.

We’re just as interested in improving the situation for BC forests and communities. In fact, we strive for the same worthy objectives as Mr. Parfitt: a sustainable forest industry and healthy sustainable forests.

To that end, we’ve taken the time to address some flawed logic, bad comparisons and misinformation Mr. Parfitt stumbled over on the way to a better place.

“We’re Shipping Primarily Non-processed Commodities to China” and Here’s Why

Economic realities dictate how markets work. The products Chinese markets want are logs and lumber. That’s why BC (and our competitors like the US, New Zealand and Australia) sell logs and lumber to China.

Fibre costs and fibre availability are not the limiting factors for value-adding in BC. Conversion costs are. Western Canada has some of the lowest log prices on planet earth. It also has the highest sawmill wages and the highest conversion costs on planet earth.

This is the same reason BC doesn’t export mobile phones and children’s toys to China. A high-cost jurisdiction cannot compete on value-added forest products into the Chinese market, or any market where the costs to manufacture goods are considerably cheaper.

Moving up the Value Chain: Why Comparing BC to Ontario and Quebec Doesn’t Work

Comparing Ontario and Quebec to BC is a bit like comparing an ocean to a lake. Sure, they’re both water, but they’re fundamentally different and exist in distinct environments.

BC’s eastern counterpartes operate with a different species mix (a greater proportion of whitewoods and temperate hardwoods) and a different product mix (newsprint, fine papers, value-added hardwood products).

Interestingly, eastern Canadian provinces are often net importers of logs from the U.S. In Quebec and Ontario there are no log export restrictions on private forest lands. This means, logs flow to the mills on either side of the border that add the most value, and can therefore offer the highest log prices.

This is the opposite of what’s going on in BC. Here, log export restrictions create artificially low log prices – the lowest on the planet. When domestic log prices are competitive there is no incentive to export logs.

Open competition for fibre compels innovation, efficiency, investment, improved utilisation, and ultimatley, increases the economic return to the forest.

“You can’t make forest products if you don’t have healthy numbers of healthy trees.”

BC has loads of healthy trees. Let us say it one more time for emphasis. There is no shortage of healthy trees in BC.

Yes, the harvest of lodgepole pine was accelerated to capture residual value in millions of trees killed by the mountain pine beetle epidemic. However, 100 million cubic meters of timber still went uncut.

That’s right, of the province’s annual allowable cut 100 million cubic metres of timber didn’t get harvested. That’s a lot of trees.

Currently, BC’s coastal timber harvest exceeds its annual coastal timber processing capacity by 8 million cubic metres.

We repeat: there are plently of healthy trees in BC. Trees that were planted and grown for the purpose of harvesting.

Some Raw Facts of Our Own:

• The current market price for lumber destined to China is $248 per thousand board feet. The price for logs (TO THE SAME MARKET) is $630 per thousand board feet.

• The cost of log production on the BC coast is between $400 and $630 per thousand board feet. You do the math.

• Banning log exports and limiting competition for fibre is the opposite of diversification.

• If a forest product is used in a manner that substitutes a high-carbon product like coal, oil, gas, steel, concrete, plastic or aluminum, the outcome is carbon-friendly.

• People don’t burn money. They don’t burn usable logs either. People burn logs to manage forests because current market conditions don’t make it economically viable to use them other ways.

What do you think? We look forward to your comments and suggestions.