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Editorial: Not all bad news for forest sector

March 30, 2017 - There is no denying it’s been a rough few months for the forest industry. And there’s no doubt it will get rougher as the full impact of the incoming U.S. duties are made known in May or earlier. But at the risk of being overly optimistic, there is some good news to share.


March 30, 2017
By Maria Church
Maria Church

In February the federal government launched a softwood lumber task force, led by Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources Jim Carr. “This new task force will work together to strengthen the long-term success of the forest sector through innovation and diversifying markets for Canadian forest products,” Carr said in a statement.

From my understanding it’s the same industry players who have been involved in discussions from the get-go, grouped under a new title. I expect most of our wood products readers are involved in some way or another. A task force might be just a formality, but it’s a sign that the government is making the industry’s needs a priority, and looks to reconcile regional differences in the discussion.

More good news? There is no shortage of learning opportunities this year.

Ligna is taking over Hannover, Germany, in May and it sounds like Canada will be well represented there. Some themes coming out of the program are integrated manufacturing and energy from wood – both of which are industry advancement opportunities taking root in Canada and around the world.

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Canadian Forest Industries’ own sawmilling event, OptiSaw West, is happening in Richmond, B.C., on April 25. I’ve put together a diverse line-up of speakers to talk about data-management in the era of sawmill 4.0, mass timber opportunities, mill innovations in Europe, and much more. We limit seating so register at www.optisaw.com to reserve a spot.

And over the next few months the Montreal Wood Convention will take place, the Council of Forest Industries will host its annual event, and WOOD MARKETS will hold its Global Softwood Log & Lumber Conference, to name a few. These are all not-to-miss learning and networking opportunities for wood product companies that will likely breed much-needed innovation in the industry.

On the harvesting side, Elmia Wood is happening this year in Sweden and Canadian Forest Industries will be there to share all the latest tech innovations. I’ll be paying close attention to new technologies and developments in steep slope harvesting.

It’s well known in B.C. that easily accessible fibre is becoming more scarce, forcing loggers onto challenging terrain. Overcoming those challenges was a focus at the Truck Loggers Association convention that took place in Vancouver in January. Industry members and manufacturers shared best practices for steep slope logging, and offered advice for loggers to make informed decisions about how to best access fibre. Missed the conference? We have highlights on page 28 as part of our special section on steep slope logging.

It was during the TLA conference that the B.C. government announced its plans to conduct a contractor sustainability review, the first to happen in the last 20 years. Canadian Forest Industries’ 2016 contractor survey found B.C. loggers are in a worrisome position, faced with worsening relations with the mills they supply. B.C.’s loggers are encouraged to participate in the government’s review to ensure meaningful results. Learn how at www.tla.ca.

B.C. is also planning to put in place a new system of job training tax credits for onsite training of logging contractors. It’s worth nothing, however, that the province is in an election year so these promises are up in the air. TLA’s David Elstone takes a hard look at the election, log exports and what it all means for forestry jobs on page 10.

There’s bound to be more good news surface as federal and provincial governments make moves to protect the softwood lumber industry from the effects of U.S. duties. Help us keep you informed of the good and the bad by emailing me at mchurch@annexweb.com.