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October 27, 2017 3:25 pm

Forestry Challenges and Bright Future Outlined at COFI Dinner

Friday, September 22, 2017 @ 6:00 AM

Prince George, B.C. – The Council of Forest Industries  gathered in Prince George last evening for a  dinner,  and an opportunity to   talk about the challenges, and opportunities that lie ahead.COFI  CEO Susan Yurkovich  admits there are  a number of  current issues facing  the industry,  not the least of which is  the  softwood lumber agreement, but the  wildfires of the  summer  of 2017  are  also a major factor “We have tough times,   we’ve had tough times as an industry before, and the thing  about this sector is it’s highly resilient.”

She says  work  has already begun with the  government to  make sure  the industry can get into the areas impacted by the wildfires  to harvest that wood which is salvageable ” We know there are lots of people  ready to do that,  so we are working with them to make sure we can get there.”

The softwood lumber agreement file  has  yet to be resolved  “We  think we have a very strong case” says Yurkovich “We’ve been  here before and we’ve been successful, but it does take time.    I was just  at the  injury hearing last week in Washington, and our case is very strong, but it is the U.S. and they have the right  to manage access to their market, and they’ve utilized that right liberally.”

The devastating hurricanes are expected to spark  a major rebuild campaign,  and  Canadian wood will be in demand  as  U.S, producers may be  hard pressed to meet the demand  “I think, what we’re seeing,  we’re seeing a lot of stories  from the U.S., from home builders,  from the National Association  of Home Builders,  Bloomberg had something,  they’re starting to be more  and more traffic about effectively, this ( the softwood situation)  is  a tax on the American  consumers, and that’s what’s happening.  Fortunately for our sector,  this  duty  has been passed on to the U.S. consumer in the form  of higher prices, which has helped us during these very difficult times,  and I think  that’s why  you see the industry being sustained.”

She says   all of the players in the  lumber industry  are enjoying good markets at the moment  “The beauty of our forest sector, particularly in British Columbia,  is that we have these great, globally competitive companies and then we have these great, family run operations.  We’ve got a lot of diversity in our sector and right now,  lumber  markets  are very good,  demand is very  strong, and so it’s tough times but we are hanging in there.”

In the wake of the devastating wildfires,  there have been calls  for  changes in forest practices,  and Yurkovich welcomes the discussion ” We’ve got communities that have  forests all around them that put them at risk during  seasons like this,  so I think we will have a discussion about that.  Having said that, we have very good forest management practices here and  we,  as the industry, are always looking  at ways to improve and we want to be part of that discussion.”

Although there are challenges,  Yurkovich says there  are many  great things happening in the industry, “We’ve got a ton of things we are doing to try  to work to diversify our markets, so when we talk  about innovation, it’s not just about innovation of products and new  technology, we are also innovating to find  new markets, so in-fill wall systems,  taller buildings,  there’s a ton of work going on there, and that’s really exciting. ”

She says  there is  also a great deal of effort  in trying to attract the next generation  of forest workers “People always focus on the negatives, but there is a great future,  there has been a great  proud history in the sector, but there is a bright future. So we need people  to be able to work as part of  the forestry future in British Columbia,  so  we’re spending time in forest education and working with communities to   attract more people to our sector.”





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