Log costs wildfires cited in decision to close sawmill in Quesnel BC

QUESNEL, B.C. — A sawmill is closing in the forestry community of Quesnel in British Columbia’s Interior and its owner is placing the blame on weak lumber markets and the impact of wildfires in recent years.Tolko Industries Ltd. says it’s permanently closing its Quest Wood sawmill in Quesnel in August and reducing the shifts by half at its Kelowna mill in July.The Quesnel sawmill employs 150 people and another 90 workers will be affected by the reduction of shifts from two to one in Kelowna.Tolko president and CEO Brad Thorlakson says in a statement that reductions to the annual allowable cut have come sooner than expected due to log costs, weak lumber markets and the “catastrophic” impacts of wildfires.He said Tolko doesn’t have enough economically priced fibre to to keep all of its ritish Columbia mills running efficiently and productively.Forestry Minister Doug Donaldson says the province will work with Tolko and the community to deliver support programs for affected workers.“Unfortunately, the problems facing Tolko are not new. They have been mounting for the past several years,” Donaldson says in a statement.The mountain pine beetle destroyed millions of hectares of forests in British Columbia following population explosion in the 1990s, but beetle-destroyed forests have also been a valued source for wood fibre until supplies dwindled.Donaldson said the fibre shortage was made worse by the record-breaking 2017 wildfire season and weaker lumber markets.“While the most recent closure will most acutely impact Quesnel, the declining supply of beetle-killed wood has been a factor on the Interior timber supply for the last few years,” Donaldson says.The industry accelerated harvesting to take advantage of beetle-killed forests, knowing full well that the newly available timber supply was finite, he says.He says the government is working to improve industry competitiveness in each of the province’s timber supply areas in collaboration with companies, unions, local governments and First Nations.— By Amy Smart in Vancouver.The Canadian Press

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