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RDCK asked to advocate for West Kootenay sawmills

Lumber industry representatives are concerned by a number of issues
Lumber company representatives want the Regional District of Central Kootenay to lobby for them at the Union of BC Municipalities conference. File photo

by John Boivin

Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Valley Voice

Representatives of the region’s lumber manufacturers are looking for closer relations and support from the West Kootenay’s local governments.

The Regional District of Central Kootenay board meeting Aug. 17 opened with a visit from the new president of the Interior Lumber Manufacturers’ Association (ILMA), Paul Rasmussen, and ILMA board chair and local business leader Ken Kalesnikoff.

One of the most critical issues facing the industry, they said, is the fibre supply. Between cuts in annual harvest allowances, forest fires and economic uncertainty, supply lines that feed the mills are being threatened.

“There’s a crunch that’s coming,” said Rasmussen. “We have this need to get access to as much fibre as we can.”

“I’ve never seen the supply as bad as it is now,” added Kalesnikoff, whose company now buys up to a quarter of its logs from the United States. “At this time, we have about two weeks of supply.”

Representing 13 family or independent lumber mills and dozens of related businesses, the men asked the RDCK to pass on their message to provincial leaders at next month’s Union of BC Municipalities conference. The meeting features a chance for mayors and councillors to have face-to-face meetings with top government leaders and bureaucrats.

“In the past, we’ve had a lot of luck with our local regional districts going to the province and suggesting that having our members continue to operate in their communities is a good thing,” said Rasmussen, who used to receive these messages when he worked as a senior bureaucrat.

“I would say, ‘Wow, this is so great to see the regional districts actually working with the ILMA to understand they need to work together to maintain jobs and do good things in the community.’”

The two men also said they wanted to build relations with local government leaders to work out issues on an ongoing basis.

“Our folks are staying here. They’ve been here a long time. They don’t plan on going anywhere, and they very much want to stay community based,” said Rasmussen. “It provides a great opportunity in terms of a longer-term partnership with our communities.”