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Environmentalists launch action against export of B.C. logs

VANCOUVER, B.C. -- Environmentalists and forestry unions have joined forces in a legal challenge against the export...

VANCOUVER, B.C. — Environmentalists and forestry unions have joined forces in a legal challenge against the export of B.C. raw logs.

The groups claim that trucking out 1.3 million cubic metres of raw logs annually from Northwestern B.C. is hurting the economy.

“Our evidence is the wood could be processed in the province,” Devon Page, spokesperson for the Sierra Legal Defence Fund tells local media.

Earlier this year, B.C. approved the export of raw logs to the U.S. – logs that would otherwise have gone unharvested according to the province’s forestry department. B.C. Forests Minister, Mike de Jong, says the three-year permits were issued to keep loggers at work through the difficult slowdown caused by the softwood lumber dispute with the U.S.

The legal challenge is supported by the David Suzuki Foundation, the Pulp, Paper and Woodworkers of Canada, the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers of Canada and the Woodworkers for Fair Forest Policy.

“It is beyond us that while there are people being laid off and there are mills closing and there is a purported fibre shortage in B.C, at the same time the government is encouraging the export of logs from this province,” says Doug Muir, former president of the Pulp, Paper and Woodworkers union.

The groups claim up to 28,000 truckloads of timber will cross into the U.S., leaving a bitter taste in the mouths of unemployed millworkers. However, the province has argued that in reality, far fewer logs will be harvested for export, as only low-grade logs that are of little use to Canadian mills are eligible for export.

“First of all, the economics in the Northwest were terrible,” says De Jong. “I would prefer all of the timber we harvest in B.C. is processed in B.C.” However he says that just isn’t going to happen given the tough economic conditions facing B.C. logging companies.

He also points out there is a lumber glut, so less than 25 per cent of the logs available for export under the permit are actually being exported. Page doesn’t buy that argument.

“Don’t tell me it has no value,” Page tells local media. “If it has no value, why cut it?”

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