Lumber companies are waiting to see the report a legislative committee will unveil today that could affect the provincial forest industry for years to come.
The Special Committee on Timber Supply, an all-parties group struck to study the spinoff effects of the pine beetle epidemic, will release its report at 10 a.m. today.
Chaired by Nechako-Lakes MLA John Rustad, the committee of seven has been touring the province since June gathering public input and expert opinions.
The forestry stakeholders with the most on the line are Hampton Affiliates - owners of Babine Forest Products - and the Sinclar Group of forest companies - owners of Lakeland Mills. Those two companies lost sawmills in explosive fires earlier this year. The determinations of this committee will likely influence their decision about whether they can rebuild.
Both companies have stated they wish to rebuild, but there has to be enough wood available. With all the dead trees killed by the mountain pine beetle, there are questions about how much merchantable timber is left.
"I'm cautiously optimistic that we will have a solution to address the mid-term timber supply issue," said Sinclar Group's Greg Stewart on the eve of the report. "I'm hopeful it won't have a negative impact on the decision to rebuild Lakeland. It was great to hear there was unanimous acceptance [among the committee members] of this report. We will be reviewing the report as soon as it is released and trying to determine the implications, although I have to say it will not be the only factor in the decision to rebuild, but we think it might play some role. We hope, we believe, it will be positive."
Steve Zika of Hampton Affiliates will be speaking about the report as soon as he reads the document.
Those two are not the only major forest companies awaiting these findings. Rustad has already reiterated that government has no choice but to reduce the allowable annual cut in almost all communities of the province, due to the pine beetle's destruction. How much harvesting is curtailed, the kind of harvesting that is allowed in the future, and the allocation of that activity to the various sawmills around the area are all decisions that will impact large and small companies alike - and the communities where these companies are based.
After the report's release at 10 a.m., Rustad will hold a meeting in Prince George half an hour later to answer questions about the document. He will travel to Burns Lake - home of Babine Forest Products - for a public meeting Thursday at 6 p.m.