When Canfor closed the Mackenzie mill in 2019, it left a community in crisis. Yet Canfor went on to earn record profits in subsequent years, including $1.5 billion in 2021. Now they want to cash out on the timber harvesting rights that went with the mill. This must not be allowed to happen.
Timber harvesting rights in B.C. across much of the province were handed to the private sector for no payment and were instead provided on the condition of employment and wildlife and fisheries management.
The 1990 Review of Forest Tenures in British Columbia clearly states that the Forest Act granted tenures and harvesting rights in exchange for “employment opportunities and other social benefits,” along with “managing for water, fisheries and wildlife resources.”
We gave timber harvesting rights in exchange for jobs and good forestry practices. It follows, if there are no jobs, there are no timber harvesting rights. If we have a degraded landscape of declining wildlife populations, there are no timber harvesting rights.
I think it’s that simple. Harvesting rights to public forests are not some tradeable, stand-alone asset disconnected from these social and environmental obligations. They never were. Certainly not for these corporations already earning billion dollar profits off the over-exploitation of our forests who recklessly spray forests with glyphosate.
Canfor has breached their contract on multiple fronts. Fair compensation for taking back those licences should be $0. If anything, they owe us. They must not profit by selling harvesting rights. Least of all to a First Nations who ultimately owns the very forest Canfor seeks to sell them their “rights” to.
We must never forget at no point did we ever pass a law saying or intending that we were to give timber rights away altogether with no expectation of employment, community, or environmental considerations in return.
We never elected a single politician or government who said they would do this. In other words, that we would allow private companies and oligarchs to completely monetize exclusive access to a public asset and exploit it with nothing for the public in exchange, like what we are seeing today.
If the stewards of the public interest in the Ministry of Forests don’t grow a backbone, their subservience to this false corporate entitlement will potentially cost us billions.
James Steidle grew up south of Prince George in the bush and worked as a treeplanter for 3 years and in Clear Lake Sawmills for 4 years. He currently runs a woodworking company. He is a founder of Stop the Spray B.C.