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Log-haulers protest devastation to British Columbia forestry industry

Truckers in beleaguered sector call on provincial and Canadian governments to step in as downturn brings cascade of closures to lumber mills.

A convoy of logging trucks en route to Vancouver, British Columbia, to protest the downturn on the Canadian province's forestry sector. Photo: BC Logging Convoy/Facebook

A convoy of about 200 logging trucks trekked to Vancouver to draw attention to the downturn that has devastated British Columbia’s forestry industry.

The trucks reached the Canadian province’s largest city on September 25, demanding the government cut the stumpage fees for the right to harvest trees. The current prices, organizers said, make the cost of doing business too high.

“I have only ever known logging my entire life. What are people like myself and others in this sector supposed to do if this industry continues to fall apart?” said Howard McKimmon,  one of the convoy’s organizers and owner of Howard McKimmon Trucking, in Merritt, where the convoy started. 

Closures and production cut slowdowns have hit some 25 lumber mills in the province in recent months. The provincial government recently announced C$69 million (a Canadian dollar equals US0.75) in aid to support the industry.

Organizers said the support isn’t enough, and also called on the federal government to help. 

“We don’t have the luxury of time anymore. We have run out of money, and we refuse to just sit by silent and watch it all come crashing down,” McKimmon said. 

British Columbia’s forestry ministry has said that the high stumpage fees reflect the current limited supply of timber – diminished by pests and fires

British Columbia’s forestry sector accounts for more than C$14 billion in exports, according to the province’s data. It employed almost 54,000 people in 2018, and supported more than 7,000 businesses. 

The province’s Minister of Forests, Doug Donaldson, told Global News in August that the ministry is considering implementing more responsive pricing in how it prices stumpage fees. But he was wary of antagonizing the United States, the largest market for the province’s softwood lumber, and a long-term point of contention between the two countries.

“A wholesale fiddling with the stumpage system, at this point, would be seen as really weakening our case in terms of potential subsidy accusations from the United States,” Donaldson said.

Nate Tabak

Nate Tabak is a Toronto-based journalist and producer who covers cybersecurity and cross-border trucking and logistics for FreightWaves. He spent seven years reporting stories in the Balkans and Eastern Europe as a reporter, producer and editor based in Kosovo. He previously worked at newspapers in the San Francisco Bay Area, including the San Jose Mercury News. He graduated from UC Berkeley, where he studied the history of American policing. Contact Nate at [email protected]