Logging companies playing catch-up here, for now

  • Oct. 29, 2007 12:00 p.m.

By Alex Rinfret–The weak housing market in the United States and the high value of the Canadian dollar could eventually lead to less logging activity on the islands, but not for now. That’s the view of Duncan Kerr, chief operating officer at Western Forest Products, which operates the largest Tree Farm Licence on Haida Gwaii. “In the very short term, there’s won’t be much of an effect at all,” Mr. Kerr said. However, he said that the company is facing an entirely “new world” than the one it was in before the United Steelworkers strike began in July. The Steelworkers returned to work last week, under very different market conditions. The Canadian dollar is at a 33-year-high, housing starts have plunged in the US, and construction lumber is selling at a low price, Mr. Kerr said. But for now, WFP will be logging at a normal pace, trying to resupply customers whose orders went unfilled during the three-month strike, and replenishing its inventories, as well as preparing for the traditional mid-winter slowdown. In the long term, the company will have to find new markets or manufacture new products, Mr. Kerr said. “The impact, if we do run into issues, will be early in the new year,” he said. Meanwhile, in Sandspit, Teal Jones Group forester Bryan Fraser said the company will be concentrating on timber sales in the Port Clements area as the loggers head back to work. Operations in Sandspit won’t be starting up for now while Teal Jones harvests those timber sales. The high value of the Canadian dollar is not good for the entire forest industry across the province, he said. For Teal Jones operations on the islands, however, the impact will not be felt for now. “That will not affect operations here because the strike has put us so far behind our production schedule for the year,” Mr. Fraser said. “We’ll be operating as much as we can.”

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