More timber harvesting jobs are expected in B.C.’s central Interior now that forest tenures from Canfor’s former sawmill in Vavenby have been transferred to lumber producer Interfor Corp.
The B.C. government announced the long-awaited transfer Friday.
Clearwater Mayor Merlin Blackwell has been an outspoken critic of delays in transferring logging rights to another company after the nearby Vavenby mill closed in June 2019, throwing more than 170 people out of work in the area north of Kamloops.
“I’m so glad that the wait is over on this,” he said.
“It may take a couple … more weeks or months to get back to full operations, but it’s what’s needed to happen to give everybody a new future.”
The transfer will give Interfor access to an annual cut of 349,000 cubic metres of wood to feed its Adams Lake Lumber Division located south of Clearwater and Vavenby.
“It’s a clear positive for the staff of our Adams Lake region specifically, but also for the community within the region,” said Marvin Juravsky, senior vice-president and CFO at Interfor.
Juravsky said having this additional tenure to support the Adams Lake sawmill is important in making sure that mill has a long future ahead of it, given the current state of the forestry industry in B.C.
There were surprise community benefits for Blackwell in Friday’s announcement. The District of Clearwater will receive a $200,000 legacy fund from Canfor to be used at the district’s discretion. An additional $500,000 will be given to the Wells Gray Community Forest and $150,000 will go to the United Way.
“People know where they stand now, they can start making plans, they can continue to decide to make truck payments,” Blackwell said. “A lot of people can start breathing again.”
“I’m just hoping the government can speed this up in the future so that the next time it comes, all the lessons learned from us can speed it up for the next community that has to go through this,” Blackwell said.
Ravi Kahlon, B.C.’s parliamentary secretary for Forests, Lands and Natural Resources, said the companies were still changing their proposals 10 days ago.
“It’s hard to make a decision when the actual proposals are still changing. It was in no one’s interest to delay this longer than it needs to be.”
Now that the government approval has come through, Canfor and Interfor can move forward with closing the deal. The agreement is expected to be completed this spring.
When the possibility of a change in ownership of timber rights was first announced in June, leaders of the Simpcw First Nation, located between Kamloops and Clearwater, said they weren’t consulted and had hoped to acquire at least some of the land tenure.
Kahlon said the B.C. government is in discussions with the Simpcw.
“We’ve agreed that there are some issues there that we still need to resolve,” he said.