CALGARY — A drive to extend Alberta’s forest harvest as lumber costs hover at file heights is permitting members of a northern First Nation to turn out to be useful resource homeowners in addition to timber-gathering contractors, says the chief of the Bigstone Cree Nation.
The Nation’s logging firm, Bigstone Forestry Inc., was shaped with the assistance of Alberta-Pacific Forest Industries Inc. a few years in the past to assist provide its pulp mill close to Athabasca with logs from its forest administration space.
In early Could, the First Nation received its personal slice of Alberta forest. It now has the proper to reap 21,000 cubic metres of coniferous wooden per 12 months from beforehand unallocated Crown land in a distant area about 300 kilometres north of Edmonton.
“First Nations have been accused of all the time asking for handouts. We don’t play that type of sport. We attempt to do what’s greatest,” mentioned Chief Silas Yellowknee in an interview.
An sudden increase in demand for forest merchandise because of sturdy housing and residential renovation markets is fattening the treasury of the Alberta authorities.
Within the just lately ended 2020-21 fiscal 12 months, the province reaped timber dues — that are adjusted month-to-month primarily based on present costs — of about $350 million, greater than triple the $99 million earned within the earlier 12 months and 7 instances the $51 million from 2015-16.
In the meantime, the levy paid by the trade for forest enchancment actions jumped to $160 million because of the excessive costs, versus $19 million in 2019-20 and a paltry $2.7 million in 2015-16.
The contribution to Alberta’s coffers is dwarfed by that of oil, fuel and coal, but it surely helps fill the hole when these non-renewable sources fall quick, as they did within the final fiscal 12 months, dropping to about $2 billion in income from $5.9 billion within the earlier 12 months.
When oil costs go up, Alberta produces extra oil, however that’s not the case with forest merchandise as a result of most of Alberta’s sustainable annual harvest has already been allotted.
At Spray Lake Sawmills in Cochrane, simply northwest of Calgary, the corporate is harvesting the utmost allowed below its provincial permits, mentioned Ed Kulcsar, vice-president of woodlands.
He remembers the worldwide recession that pressured Spray Lakes to drop from two shifts to 1 from 2010 to 2013, and the shock of the early COVID-19 lockdowns a 12 months in the past that quickly erased the marketplace for forest merchandise and triggered the corporate to close down for a month.
“We’re grateful for the great costs right this moment however we’re all the time conscious that the lumber market may be very cyclical and it might go down at any time,” he mentioned. “Some individuals say the massive remedy for prime lumber costs is excessive lumber costs.”
Grande Prairie is a small northwestern Alberta metropolis that serves as a hub for oil and fuel, agriculture and forestry, with an oriented strand board (OSB) panel mill, a paper mill and two sawmills.
“In balancing the ebbs and flows of various economies, seeing the expansion in forestry has actually been a constructive mild and dialogue level in our group,” mentioned Mayor Jackie Clayton, noting forestry employs about 2,300 individuals, helps over 160 associated companies and accounts for $900 million in native exports yearly.
Norbord Inc., proprietor of the OSB mill, was a second recipient of provincial forest harvest rights earlier this month, successful 51,000 cubic metres per 12 months of unallocated wooden from an space about 70 kilometres northwest of Grande Prairie.
In a deal partly pushed by excessive constructing product costs, Norbord turned a division of West Fraser Timber Co. Ltd. in February in return for $4 billion in shares, leaving West Fraser as the biggest forestry firm in Alberta with 15 amenities in 13 communities and about 2,500 direct staff.
A spokeswoman for West Fraser mentioned the brand new provincial wooden provide “will help capital investments beforehand made on the Grande Prairie OSB mill,” with no quick plans for increasing manufacturing.
Alberta Forestry Minister Devin Dreeshen mentioned he requested his division early in his present mandate to re-examine the province’s forest riches “as a real environmentalist” to give you methods to most effectively use its bounty.
“They crunched the numbers and mentioned a couple of 33 per cent improve from the annual allowable minimize is one thing we may sustainably harvest and ensure we do preventive measures akin to forest hearth safety and pest administration,” he mentioned in an interview.
He’s now in search of methods to extend the annual harvest by as a lot as one other 20 per cent, after rising it by 13 per cent within the final 12 months or so with strikes together with the allocations to Bigstone Cree and Norbord.
The province’s efforts have been criticized by the Alberta Wilderness Affiliation as doubtlessly dangerous to the forest, and by the grand chief of the Treaty 8 First Nations for a scarcity of Indigenous session.
However Chief Yellowknee says he’s assured his a part of the forest will thrive now that his nation is a useful resource proprietor.
“This fashion, it being ours, will probably be sorted the correct means. That’s how we’re it.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first printed Could 30, 2021.
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Dan Therapeutic, The Canadian Press