Wood Allocations Include Bands, Cut Out Big River

Friday, November 27, 2009 at 15:38



The Prince Albert Forest Management Agreement has some new players.


For the first time, the province is allocating the use of wood in the region not to one large company — namely Weyerhaeuser — but to a group of users, including several First Nations.


The Agency Chiefs Tribal Council is receiving 400,000 cubic metres of softwood and hardwood allocation, while the Montreal Lake Cree Nation is receiving another 240,000 cubic metres.


Energy and Resources Minister Bill Boyd says the province wants to ensure that First Nations get a chance to play a much bigger role in the industry.


“This is the largest (timber) allocation to First Nations groups in Canada. We think that is very historic. We think it opens a new door toward the co-operation that our government has been talking about since forming government in 2007. We want to involve First Nations people into the economy of Saskatchewan. We think that this is a great step forward,” Boyd says.


Several other groups will benefit from the announcement, including the northern village of Green Lake — which receives 15,000 cubic metres of harvestable wood — and existing forestry companies such as Carrier Lumber, C&C Wood Products and NorSask Forest Products.


The province is also setting aside one portion of the FMA for future proposals, and another to make the sale of Prince Albert’s pulp mill viable.


Meanwhile, the town of Big River is considering legal action over the government’s decision not to allocate any timber for the Big River sawmill.


Eacom Timber Corporation, the company planning on buying the mill, has said if it doesn’t get any timber — or not enough — it will move the mill elsewhere.


Big River mayor Brian Brownfield says he’s so steamed about this decision by the province, he plans to hold a community meeting, to seek input on what to do next.


Brownfield says he’ll recommend suing the government over its decision.


He also wants a public inquiry on how the government handled the FMA re-structuring.


Minister Boyd says that after “careful consideration”, the province decided not to give Eacom a timber allocation, because the company’s plan for re-opening the mill was “not viable.”


“That proposal was deemed unworkable, for various reasons. It demanded too much of the available sawlog supply from the FMA and would hurt other existing mills, it had no provision for partnerships with First Nations or other companies, and the company — as a start-up itself — had no record, track record, in operating sawmills,” Boyd says.


Boyd says he recognizes that this decision is “clearly a major disappointment” to the town, and the province will work with Big River residents on finding other options for boosting the local economy, including possible use of the timber allocation the province has set aside for future bidders.


Brownfield says the decision is devastating news for town residents and businesses.