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Vaagen Thanks Support For Midway Sawmill

The outpouring of support for Vaagen Fibre Canada’s Midway, BC sawmill, upon the early January Vaagen family announcement of the mill’s impending closure, was substantial, but apparently hasn’t changed the disappointing outcome, at least for now.

The Vaagen family, whose Vaagen Brothers Lumber headquarters and sawmill is in Colville, Wash., announced on January 6 the Midway mill, which Vaagen had been operating for more than 10 years, was shutting down indefinitely. At the time, Vaagen indicated it was looking for solutions to keep the operation going, and encouraged those impacted throughout the Boundary, West Kootenay, and Okanagan regions to appeal to the Ministry of Forests.

Vaagen Fibre Canada was a non-tenured mill and thus did not have forest licenses to manage Crown forests, which means it purchased all logs on the open market including the procurement of logs from local private landowners and woodlot owners.

“Although our team has been creative for years in finding logs to run our mill, there are a few challenges that have compounded for us. This is an access to wood fiber at market price issue,” the company stated in January. “We have put forward several solutions to the Ministry of Forests.”

However, in a March announcement President & CEO Duane Vaagen said the mill ran through its last log on February 23, “and many of our dedicated employees must seek out new work opportunities. Their commitment and pride over the last several months, when they knew things were coming to an end, was beyond any of our expectations. We are so proud of our team and want to send out the most heartfelt ‘thank you’ for giving everything until the end.”

Vaagen noted that since the January announcement hundreds of people—employees and their families, contractors and vendors, suppliers, local community leaders, forestry associations, and others—reached out to express their disappointment and asked what they could do to help. Hundreds of letters and messages via social media were sent, and numerous phone calls were made to decision-makers in Victoria.

The March announcement stated: “Vaagen family are expressing their appreciation to their many partners for their years of relationship, including employees and contractors, local community members, the Osoyoos Indian Band, West Boundary Community Forest, Interior Lumber Manufacturers’ Association, local area Mayors, Councillors, and Regional District Directors, and local Ministry of Forest staff.

“For those of you who called your local MLA or wrote a letter, our collective voices were heard loud and clear, so thank you. You have inspired our family to continue looking for economic opportunities in this community and we will look forward to the time where we can share what those opportunities turn into.”

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