This sure caught our eye – a full-page open letter in the weekend edition (May 23, 2020) of the Vancouver Sun sharply criticizing a major landowner and logging company operating in Qualicum Beach.
Dozens of coastal forestry companies are incensed by a recent proposal by Mosaic Forest Management, the logging and property management company owned by forestry giants, Island Timberlands and TimberWest. According to the open letter penned by the coastal forestry companies, Mosaic has proposed to the BC government that it, Mosaic, be largely exempted from regulation of its raw log exports.
This dispute is just the latest chapter in the long-standing challenge of balancing public and private interests, short-term vs. long-term objectives, while sustaining not only forest-related jobs, but also our much larger tourism and recreation sectors.
… inside our Town limits, Mosaic is currently permitted to clearcut forested land, even within the Agricultural Land Reserve.
For Island Timberlands and TimberWest, their primary asset is the land, not the forests on the land. As Mosaic CEO Jeff Zweig and his team tells us on their website: “Land management is the core of our business.”
“As responsible managers of the land, Island Timberlands engages in regular assessment of our properties. While our primary focus is on managing timberlands, from time to time we identify parcels of land for which alternate uses will bring higher value. When appropriate, we offer parcels of land for lease or sale [through their real estate division known as Couverdon] to support developments which will benefit our community.”
Which community would that be? Their investors?
Did you know? Much of the land on both sides of the Inland Highway as you approach the entrance to Qualicum Beach is owned by TimberWest and Island Timberlands. People may also be surprised to learn that inside our Town limits, Mosaic is currently permitted to clearcut forested land, even within the Agricultural Land Reserve.
By federal directive, timber felled in BC is to be considered for export in raw log form if – and only if – there is no market for the timber in Canada – in sawmills, pulp or paper mills, or any other remanufacturing facility. A logging company like Mosaic (who operate no mills of any kind) is obliged to first determine if their logs are indeed surplus to the needs of domestic manufacturers.
According to a recent CHEK News report, Domenico Iannidinardo, Mosaic’s Vice President of Forest & Logistics and Chief Forester, stated that the current policy and regulations “interferes with us making international contracts” and ”causes uncertainty in terms of end-customers.”
The open letter published in the Vancouver Sun states that Mosaic would like to bypass any Surplus Test completely and “freely export the average volume of logs it has sold internationally over the prior five years.” Iannidinardo says it would make the process more efficient and certain for its international customers.
The coastal forestry companies’ letter claims that “changing the current laws would betray domestic manufacturers and put the livelihood of thousands of forestry workers in jeopardy.”
Denying BC-based added-value wood processors access to this Mosaic timber would undoubtedly worsen an already bad economic and employment crisis. In January 2019, BC Premier John Horgan launched the Coast Forest Sector Revitalization Initiative, “making policy changes to increase the processing of B.C. logs on the coast”, with goals including “Rebuilding solid wood and secondary industries to ensure more B.C. logs and fibre are processed in B.C.” and “Improving harvest performance to ensure more fibre is available for domestic mills, including the pulp and paper sector”.
According to the open letter from the group of some 70 value-added wood processors, “Mosaic Forest Management’s push for unrestricted log exports would achieve the exact opposite.”
Every sustainable industry, whether it’s the production of cars, food, or wood products requires a smooth functioning collaborative of many domestic and international players, each balancing their self-interest with the obligation to the communal, integrated network. If a company like Mosaic, with millions of trees on private lands owned by Island Timberlands and TimberWest, excessively acts in self-interest, the collective enterprise may become more unbalanced, wither and die. Maintaining that balance in the BC forest sector has long been a challenge, going as far back as the 1800s when Governor James Douglas gave his crony Robert Dunsmuir about 20% of the unceded land on Vancouver Island – much of which is now in the hands of Island Timberlands and TimberWest.
Mosaic curtailed the majority of its seasonal logging operations earlier than usual, on November 25, 2019. On March 10, 2020, Mosaic CEO Zweig announced that: ”Poor market conditions have persisted longer than anticipated and have been exacerbated by the impact of the corona virus on global supply chains. We regret the impact this situation is having on our contractors, BC coastal communities and customers. Our priority remains getting everyone back to work as soon as market conditions allow.”
The value-added wood processors aren’t buying it.
According to their May 23 open letter: “Given our own knowledge of coastal harvesting economics, we find it hard to believe that Mosaic could not have operated its business profitably for 2020 year-to-date, had it chosen to do so. The primary motivation behind Mosaic’s prolonged curtailment seems to be to ratchet up political pressure to change the log export laws.”
Residents of Qualicum Beach whose employment is directly or indirectly affected, or those who just enjoy the quality of life and natural beauty of our Town and the mid-Island, are encouraged to engage in the resolution of this conflict. You can start by letting others know your thoughts on this important issue. QB Speaks!
If you wish to provide input to the BC government who ultimately need to step up on behalf of all of our Island communities, John Allan, the Deputy Minister of BC Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development can be reached through his assistant at this email address: Lori.Willms@gov.bc.ca