The warning bell has been sounding for several years that the opportunity to extract economic value from pine beetle-killed trees would come to an end. West Fraser has focused on salvaging dead pine trees for almost 15 years and we remain committed to salvaging pine as long as it is economically viable. In 2013, 75 percent of the fiber processed in our B.C. mills was pine salvage. However, the inevitable reduction in the allowable harvest in some areas of the province is not only coming; it has arrived.
The recent mill closures highlight the real and personal impact of this epidemic on people, families and communities. The closure of our Houston sawmill after more than 35 years was a difficult decision that has deeply affected the community and our employees. While many have elected to stay in Houston or retire, those that made the choice to relocate with us have jobs at our other operations. All our employees have been provided with support services, education and access to retraining to mitigate the impact of this significant event for their families.
We want to reinforce that although the pine beetle presents some difficult challenges to companies and communities, over-all we see a bright future for the globally competitive forest industry in B.C. Although there will be fewer trees to harvest and the industry will be smaller, technology efficient and modernized wood products facilities will continue to make a significant contribution to B.C.’s economy.
West Fraser is the direct employer of 3,200 people in high-paying, family-supporting jobs and the customer for hundreds of small and independent contractors in the communities where we operate. We are committed to maintaining a sustainable, responsible business. West Fraser has been successful in the past by continuously reinvesting in our plants and having some of the most technologically advanced mills in the industry. We are in the midst of an unprecedented $350-million capital investment program that will continue to ensure our plants are among the safest and most competitive sawmills in the world. Many of these facilities are located in communities affected by the beetle.
From The Vancouver Sun: http://www.vancouversun.com/Opinion+West+Fraser+invests+pine+beetle+zone/9889059/story.html