Bob Brash would like to see a different story about logging than the latest War in the Woods headlines.
The executive director of the Truck Loggers Association recently appeared before the Village of Cumberland’s council to talk about the value of timber and the challenges the industry is facing.
“We’re obviously concerned about the prosperity of the industry,” he said at the May 31 meeting.
The association, he said, has been around for 78 years and has about 500 members, including 17 in the Comox Valley that represent about 320 workers.
The industry faces challenges, he said, such as the investment climate. While the current price of lumber is high and helps keep people working, things can change.
“We’re in a cyclical-type industry,” he said. “It’s not going to last forever…. We have to be competitive.”
Brash said the industry is finding it harder to remain competitive in Canada, let alone globally. He touched on the current situation surrounding old-growth protests in the Fairy Creek area of Vancouver Island.
“There’s a flood of data and opinions out there,” he said.
The debate is becoming very polarizing, but he suggested there are many details around harvesting rates and different types of old-growth that give a more complex, localized picture of current forestry.
“Harvesting is not always a yes or no proposition,” he said.
Members of council said they understood the historic importance of the logging to communities like Cumberland, with some even recounting their days treeplanting. At the same time, they questioned how well the industry can employ people now. Coun. Gwyn Sproule, for one, brought up past changes by the provincial government to appurtenance clauses for timber licensees to supply local sawmills, with the result being more of an outflow of logs for milling.
“People on the island have lived by logging,” she said.
Coun. Sean Sullivan also questioned the need for cutting old-growth.
“That’s just not a sustainable model — to cut a thousand-year-old tree,” he said.
Coun. Jesse Ketler asked Brash to elaborate on the issue of competitiveness. Brash replied that much comes down to costs for licence holders that raises overhead or causes planning delays, though he also talked about some mills needing to modernize equipment. He added that Canada has the most certified forests that have been independently audited in the world, and while he was not asking for these measures to be relaxed, he added the costs add up over time.
In his presentation, Brash said his association typically works with licence holders, the province, communities and First Nations, and he was confident about a new vision from the province toward a common ground for discussion and collaboration on a working forest model to balance values.
“We’d love to work with you folks,” he added.