The owner of a Nakusp-based lumber mill is warning new provincial logging rules are hitting his business hard – and the village’s mayor says the Province has to act to protect jobs in the community.
Dan Wiebe says Box Lake Lumber needs a reprieve from the new rules deferring the harvest of old-growth logs in order to retool the operation to remain in business.
“We’re looking at a one-year window to do a transition,” he told the Valley Voice. “We have already set some things in place to work towards [relying] more on secondary wood.”
Last fall the provincial government announced it would defer the logging of old-growth forests “to prevent irreversible biodiversity loss while First Nations, the Province and other partners develop a new approach to sustainable forest management that prioritizes ecosystem health and community prosperity.”
To support the deferral process, BC Timber Sales immediately ceased advertising and selling licences in the affected areas.
But the deferral means Box Lake Lumber has lost half the wood supply it needs to make its split rail fencing, landscaping logs and other value-added wood products it sells, says Wiebe. The company employs about 40 people and sells across the country and to Europe.
But even if they survive, the nearly 40-year-old mill will likely be smaller than before.
“We are trying to find a way forward – we are trying to find a transitional phase,” Wiebe says. “The mill has to adapt and it will definitely have to downsize.”
Mayor calls on Province
Nakusp’s mayor is also lobbying for help for Box Lake Lumber. Tom Zeleznik has reached out to local MLA (and minister responsible for forests) Katrine Conroy to see what can be done to help the mill. He says a ministry official has already visited town to meet with the company.
“Take-away from this meeting: everyone understands that due to this new provincial forestry land use planning, it may be difficult to find a short-term solution to keep operating,” Zeleznik wrote in a report to his council. “However, by brainstorming together, we generated some ideas. We will meet again soon to see if any ideas will come to fruition.”
Zeleznik says meetings are planned for late March to see what can be done to help Box Lake.
He noted that Box Lake has spent over $1 million on new equipment that would produce certified/stamped products for export from the region. But instead of expanding, “without warning, no community consultation, nor time to adjust to these immediate changes, this business may close,” Zeleznik warned.
Weibe says it’s too early to say what will happen to his business.
“We are just at the beginning phases of it, we’ll know more as time progresses,” he says. “I am trying to stay positive as we go, and I hope something can be done. But we won’t know until we give them the opportunity to do something.”