'Use it or lose it': Prince Albert mayor calls for province to adapt to lumber demands

Prince Albert Mayor Greg Dionne says the province needs to guarantee new players in the forest industry a steady supply of wood so they can operate in Prince Albert and provide jobs to local people.

“Everyone is shocked that there was not a use it or lose it clause because everyone knows in the last five years, how much wood could have been harvested around PA,” said Dionne.

He said he’s aware of wood supply issues for Paper Excellence, which is working to get wood to reopen the pulp mill; furniture manufacturer Pivot Subscriptions; and the proposed construction of a oriented strand board (OSB) factory by One Sky Forest Products.

Minister of Energy and Resources Bronwyn Eyre says the province has been able to provide a small amount of unutilized and unallocated timber to One Sky.

“There’s nothing precluding companies from entering into private agreements with each other. We always have to work within the timber allocation system that exists right now,” said Eyre.

Erye says because companies base their capital and business decisions on timber allocations, they are not breaking contracts.

“We are talking to all viable projects, including Pivot, One Sky and Paper Excellence to make sure we are clear on what they need and they’re clear on what we have in the area and that’s important as we move forwards to see these projects through,” said Eyre.

The government says they’re working with Paper Excellence to find a suitable solution. In Saskatchewan, Paper Excellence has a timber allocation, however it is seeking softwood to supply the revamped pulp mill operation in Prince Albert.

In respect to Pivot, Eyre says they do not have a running operation at present and they can enter into agreement with other companies while they work to find supply.

In 2010, Sakaw Askiy Management Inc. (Sakaw) took over the Prince Albert Forest Management Agreement (PAFMA) for the wood supply formerly held by Weyerhauser that supplied wood to the pulp and paper mill.

Sakaw is a corporation made up of five forest companies and two First Nations who have been allocated wood from within the PAFMA area.

This includes includes A.C. Forestry, Carrier Forest Products, Edgewood Forest Products Operations, Dunkley Lumber Ltd, Meadow Lake Mechanical Pulp Inc. Montreal Lake Business Ventures and NorSask Forest Products andTolko Industries Ltd. The PAFMA area also supplies wood to 13 forest product businesses and five mills.

Sakaw general manager Diane Roddy says she understands the position the new companies are taking.

“Generally businesses want their own wood supply to take to the bank to get their funding. Most of the wood is allocated but there is some hardwood and some small softwood tops that’s still available.”

Under The Forest Resource Management Act there are specific terms for softwood and hardwood harvesting. There’s also area-based term supply licenses (TSL) typically issued for two to five years.

Logging companies also have to complete and adhere to environmental impact studies and reforestation plans. About 23 percent of the forest in Saskatchewan is managed with TSL.

Sixty-one per cent of the province's commercial forest has long-term licensing arrangements with forest management agreements in place, according to the Saskatchewan government.

The province uses 20-year forest management plans for growth, harvesting, renewal or planting of tree seedlings, says Roddy.