FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – The Northern Rockies Regional Municipality continues to work toward the re-establishment of a sustainable forest industry as it moves toward economic diversification following the downturn in the oil and gas industry.
It’s also an ongoing response to the closure of the Canfor mills in Fort Nelson in 2008 which resulted in the loss of over 500 fulltime equivalent direct jobs, and an even greater number of indirect ones.
Among the recent steps forward is a series of meetings this summer between the Regional Council and Canfor representatives.
The first one was held last month, the second one this week, and a third one has been scheduled for an as yet unspecified date at the end of this month, which reportedly should result in a joint news release on a number of related topics.
There’s also a meeting planned for September 14th in Prince George with the Provincial Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations to discuss a pending application for a Community Forest Agreement which would initially involve a request for an annual volume of 100 thousand cubic metres of timber.
A news release from the NRRM concedes the volume of a Ministry offer is yet to be determined but a minimum of 50 thousand metres in anticipated.
It also says areas for inclusion in the application are currently being finalized, but it’s hoped to establish a Community Forest under local control, with a timber volume economically viable enough to attract and sustain industry interest.
Municipality staff discussions with industry have reportedly made it clear that Canfor’s current tenure arrangements pose a deterrent to others who need a secure long-term timber supply with sufficient volume to justify any investment.
However, a process to “replace” Canfor’s Forest License Agreement is in progress.
For those who missed earlier reports, the NRRM hopes to develop a new model of forestry involving a number of co-operating synergetic operations using 100 percent of the harvested fiber, and value added processing.
It would capitalize on the government structure of the Regional Municipality providing opportunities to all communities with interests within the NRRM boundaries, both aboriginal and non-aboriginal.