Executive Summary

The Small Forest Tenure Capacity Building Project (SFT) proposes to strengthen the capacity of small forest tenure holders and small mill operators. The project was designed in an effort to address the need to optimize value from log products, to utilize and minimize wood waste, and to increase harvesting and manufacturing efficiency. The project interviewed small tenure holders and small wood manufacturers in the Kootenay-Boundary catchment area and collected SFT business-specific data; reviewed research and reports relevant to SFT; and reviewed information from industry experts. A major goal of this research was to identify realistic opportunities for economic development and to create a network database to facilitate information exchange and relationships among small operators.

Research questions for this component of the project focused on capacity, utilization, partners, and obstacles. Researchers formally interviewed participants who were either Small Tenure Holders (STH) or Small Wood Manufacturers (SWM). Both STH and SWM contributed data from their own operations. Researchers also gathered data from industry and provincial websites.

Results show that small operators face large obstacles in maximizing their capacity and utilization. Respondents cited several factors throughout their discussions with researchers that limit their operations and increase capacity:

  1. Lack of consistent access to fibre supply for small sawmills and wood manufacturers;
  2. Lack of qualified, competent contractors and labor for harvest, transport or manufacturing of fibre;
  3. Lack of business capacity among small operators;
  4. Inability to maximize profit due to scale and lack of integration with value-added activities;
  5. Lack of communication and cooperation between small operators around pricing and lack of a unified voice or body to counter the influence of large sawmills;
  6. Lack of public education resulting in public misconceptions about small-scale forestry enterprises;
  7. Overlapping forestry constraints (Old Growth Deferrals, Visual Quality Objectives) that limit the ability of STH and SWM to fully utilize their volume or fibre;
  8. Barriers to utilization, including lack of economic markets for low value products and value-added opportunities for non-log products; and industry cut specifications and log quality requirements that result in high levels of waste on the harvest site.

However, despite numerous challenges and barriers, respondents offered suggestions for increasing capacity and maximizing utilization. Suggestions included:

  1. create positive media pieces about the small forest operations in the region to counter negative stories in the media;
  2. create training programs to increase the availability of qualified, competent contractors, including truckers;
  3. create an accessible database listing of qualified, competent small forest contractors;
  4. build new or strengthen existing businesses to capitalize on opportunities throughout the region;
  5. create a Southern Interior Log and Lumber exchange that provides a wholesale distribution channel that can be utilized by fibre suppliers, processors, small

manufacturers and retailers and which includes access to contractors, business capacity tools, and communication and networking functions;

  1. explore BC Timber Sales pricing data to better understand log pricing disparities among small- and large mills;
  2. create new outlets for wood waste, including hog/bark; and,
  3. use the network generated by this project to strengthen communication and cooperation in an effort to increase collaboration and economies of scale.

This research provides unique insights into the struggles and successes of STH and SWM across the Kootenay-Boundary catchment area and offers several recommendations for next steps at the provincial, industry and local levels. While there are many challenges for STH, and while some of those challenges lie outside of their sphere of influence, most acknowledge that increased communication and collaboration between small operators as well as support with business and product education will strengthen their position in the industry and offer a unified front both to counter the influence of large sawmills and strengthen small scale forestry.

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