ACCORDING TO Madison’s Lumber Reporter, the price of 2x4s milled in BC reached a record high of just over $1600 USD per 1000 board feet at the end of April 2021. For the first four months of the year, the price had averaged about $1250. That average was approximately 3.3 times higher than for the same period in 2020. With almost all lumber in BC being cut from publicly-owned forests, you might think that huge price increase would translate into a financial windfall for BC residents.
But data from the BC ministry of forests shows that for the first 4 months of 2020, the average stumpage collected across the province was $20.59 per cubic metre. For the first 4 months of 2021, that rose to $29.66. So while the value of products milled from public forests increased by 330 percent, the ministry of forests collected only 44 percent more, barely enough to cover the ministry’s own cost of providing forest management for the industry.
The large jump in net revenue for forestry companies will make for some interesting financial statements in the coming months. In 2020, when lumber prices were one-third of their current level, Canfor, BC’s largest forestry company, reported a net operating income of $560 million.
The ministry’s data also shows a huge surge in logging in 2021 over 2020. In the first 4 months of 2020, about 13.2 million cubic metres were cut in public forests. In the same period this year, 21.8 million cubic metres had been cut, up 65 percent. So not only are forestry companies getting a huge break on what they pay for wood compared to what the market pays them, they are cutting like there is no tomorrow. If logging continues at the current rate, the year’s cut will be about 15 million cubic metres higher than what the forest ministry’s own timber supply analyses have shown is sustainable in the mid-term.
A logging truck heads to a log sort loaded with old-growth forest (Photo by TJ Watt)
For some companies, the record high prices have had little effect on the stumpage they pay. In the first four months of 2020, Teal Cedar Products paid an average of $23.13 per cubic metre for wood it removed from publicly-owned land in TFL 46. For the same period in 2021—by which time lumber prices had more than tripled—Teal paid just 2 cents more per cubic metre than it had in 2020.
Teal Cedar Products is the company whose logging operations in TFL 46 are being blockaded by the Rainforest Flying Squad, which is trying to prevent the company from cutting old-growth forest. A strategic review of old-growth forests in BC conducted in 2020, commissioned by the BC government, recommended an immediate moratorium on logging of old forest in areas where less than 10 percent remains, which would include much of TFL 46. BC Premier John Horgan promised—before last fall’s election—that his government would abide by the review’s recommendations.
The blockades don’t seem to have hindered Teal’s access to trees in TFL 46 for its mills in Surrey. For the first four months of 2021, forests ministry data shows that Teal cut more in TFL 46 than it had in the same period in 2020, which turned out to be the company’s biggest cut since 2012. But the blockades have resulted in intense public scrutiny and criticism of Premier John Horgan’s dithering on the old-growth file.
David Broadland splits his life between a primary forest on Quadra Island and an urban Garry oak meadow in Victoria.