Sidney Gendron runs Sawmill Sid, a family-run sawmill that collects felled and diseased trees at its Tree and Wood Recovery Centre in Mississaug, Canada. Source: CBC Canada Once processed, downed trees can be repurposed as furniture, art pieces or materials for housing and construction. Sawmill Sid is part of a nascent wood recycling industry that aims to combat climate change by diverting landfill waste and reducing the carbon footprint of the forestry industry. “When trees come down because of storm or disease we try and play our part in making sure as much is used as possible,” said Mr Gendron, who runs the sawmill in partnership with his wife, Sheila, and daughter, Sacha. “We make sure that we get the highest and best value out of that wood,” he said. Mr Gendron said his sawmill has already received 15 to 20 dump-truck loads of wood from a recent windstorm. “Our yard is pretty full right now,” he said. Mr Gendron buys logs and trees from city woodlots or takes donations from private companies looking to get rid of used wood. They sort it, cut it and the resell the lumber to suppliers who make it into finished products. The company’s customers include developers, renovators and restaurateurs who want to buy local, but also artisans and craftspeople who turn the wood into art and other products. Richard Posa is an artist and builder who recently became a customer of the Gendrons. He uses salvaged wood to make art, sculptures and furniture. “Out of every tree, every chunk of wood, something can be made from it,” said Mr Posa. Mr Posa says the variety of wood he has access to has increased since meeting the Gendrons. “The wood resource is practically endless now,” he said. “Especially with the storm that came down the other day.” Mr Gendron says much of the “wood waste” generated each year is turned into wood chips and sent to landfills, where it releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. A city spokesperson says Toronto paid some Can$450,000 last year to companies who chip wood in tub grinders — large machines that convert logs and trees into wood chips — while charging companies like Sawmill Sid to get access to the wood. However, all chipped wood from city-owned trees is reused in the Toronto’s tree planting programs. Mr Gendron would like it to be easier for companies like his to access used wood. “We are taking wood that would normally be chipped and putting it into the hands of woodworkers across Ontario and allowing them to be sustainable themselves,” said Mr Gendron. “We’re building sustainable neighbourhoods and businesses within the GTA.” On top of diverting landfill waste, reusing trees and logs keeps the carbon inside the wood, said Gendron. The company claims it captured over 6800 tonnes of carbon emissions in 2016 by making re-used wood products. Sacha Gendron, Sidney’s daughter, believes this number will rise in the coming years. “As climate change progresses we’re going to see more storms, more damage and more wood waste,” she said. “We need to get the public to understand that there are alternatives to common practices that are taking place such as chipping.” Jim Donaldson, the CEO of the Alberta-based Canadian Wood Waste Recycling Business Group, says it will take a big shift in government thinking for the wood recycling industry to take off. His group is bringing together industry and academia to shepherd the development of a wood recycling industry across Canada. “The biggest problem is lack of education at a governmental level,” said Donaldson. “The City of Toronto has a pretty good wood reuse program but where they’re missing is reusing used wood.” Donaldson says a lot of wood that is burned or chipped and sent to landfill can easily be repurposed. One of the main problems, he says, is the lack of reliable data. His business group is conducting 35 feasibility studies to fill in this knowledge gap. For the Gendrons, it’s only a matter of time before people catch on to the value of recycling wood. “Recycling was tough to get started but now everyone does it without even thinking,” said Sidney Gendron. “We need to start thinking about what’s the right thing to do here, and keep on doing it.”
The Chicago Mercantile Exchange futures contract for the softwood two-by-fours used in framing houses closed at its highest price ever. Source: Justin Fox for Bloomberg If one adjusts for inflation, current prices are no longer record-setting. But an interesting pattern does appear if one adds in a few other key data points. It appears that every time the US picks a fight with Canada over its alleged subsidies of softwood lumber, which comes from coniferous trees such as pines, firs and cedars, US lumber prices go up. The US-Canada softwood lumber war first flared up in the early 1980s. Imports of lumber from Canada had been on the rise as environmental restrictions cut back on logging in US National Forests, and the US timber industry began to complain that Canadian local, provincial and national governments, which own almost all of the country’s forest land, were charging such low prices for timber that it amounted to an unfair subsidy. That has remained the chief complaint ever since. Various bi- and multi-lateral trade organizations have been charged with evaluating it, and as my former Bloomberg Opinion colleague and longtime softwood-lumber-trade-dispute aficionado Megan McArdle put it in a column last year: After that happens, the tariffs go down again and lumber prices drop … until another president decides to make a stink about Canadian softwood lumber. Donald Trump started doing that soon after taking office, and now the average duties on Canadian lumber are up to 21%. Unlike some of Trump’s other trade actions, this clearly does not signify a major departure from past presidential practice. But it’s worth asking whether it makes any sense. The main beneficiaries of these softwood lumber trade spats appear to be owners of the land on which softwood-lumber-producing trees are grown. Most timberland in the US is in private hands, and the biggest owner by far, according to the latest survey by Forisk Consulting Weyerhaeuser Co., a publicly traded real estate investment trust that has seen its stock price rise about 20% since the beginning of 2017. Billionaire John Malone is also in the top 10, as are the California and Massachusetts state employee pension funds. Yale University’s endowment does not appear on Forisk’s list but reported owning more timberland in 2009 than any entity but Weyerhaeuser does now. Investment returns on timber in US have been on a long decline, but they do seem to have perked up in the past during softwood lumber trade disputes. If cheap Canadian lumber has been hurting the US timber industry it’s been helping the much-larger US housing construction industry and the many buyers of its products. And for home builders, the recent price increases have been a challenge, as Bloomberg’s Jen Skerritt reported in March. I’m willing to believe that there are cases where restricting trade or otherwise favoring domestic producers makes sense — to protect a nascent industry, for example, or to keep key technological capabilities from slipping into the hands of an economic or political rival. No such justification springs to mind here. I also have some trouble with the notion that Canada is somehow cheating by selling its softwood lumber at a lower price than US timber owners think it should. Maybe it’s just cheaper to grow pine trees in Canada.
OTTAWA – A report released today by the leaders of Canada’s top environmental organizations reviews the progress of the federal government in meeting its platform and mandate commitments on environmental issues across the country.
Today, an important step was taken to protect species at risk in Canada. The Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Catherine McKenna, and the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society agreed that, moving forward, the Government of Canada will track and report unprotected critical habitat for species at risk on non-federal lands, 180 days after critical habitat has been identified. In addition, the federal government has committed to addressing Species at Risk Act reporting requirements.
OTTAWA – The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) welcomes the release today of the Minister of Environment and Climate Change’s formal response to her 2017 Minister’s Round Table on Parks Canada in which she unequivocally reaffirms that ecological integrity will be the first priority in all aspects of national park management, and that this will take precedent over the use of our national parks.
The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society today expressed its disappointment and serious concern with the lack of action by the federal government and Parks Canada on improving the management of our national parks.
The timber industry sees a copy of checks on the Canadian-US and Norwegian-Swedish borders as part of preparations for a possible hard Brexit to minimise its impact on Irish-British and cross-border trade. Source: The Irish Times Concerned that the UK will crash out of the European Union in March 2019 without a deal, the industry made the observations in a new report aimed at preparing Ireland for the worst post-Brexit. The industry supports 12,000 jobs and relies on unrestricted trade north and south of the Border and between the UK and the Republic. It has already felt the pinch from Brexit as the fall in the value of sterling is costing the industry an estimated €40 million to €50 million a year. Among the measures highlighted by the Timber Industry Brexit Forum that includes semi-State forestry firm Coillte are practices in use on the Norwegian-Swedish border such as interchangeable customs officials, mutual trust and training of border officials, and mutual recognition of customs officials and police. The forum has taken the most effective practices used at the Scandinavian and North American borders to map out measures to reduce the cost of trade in wood products between the Republic and the UK in the report called Brexit: Protecting Growth in the Irish Timber Industry. “We see elements of these models, together with other smart solutions, as providing the basis for a bespoke model for UKEU trade which would minimise the impact of Brexit on the Irish timber industry and indeed across many industries in Ireland,” Fergal Leamy, chief executive of Coillte said. Other solutions include agreeing matching regulations between the EU and the UK on low-risk products and adopting the best international technological practices on number-plate recognition and data collection as well as a mutually recognisable single database for trades. The industry wants the EU and the UK to agree advanced authorisation mechanisms at the busiest Irish border crossings and British and Irish ports, and to introduce a fast-track program similar to one in place under a free-trade agreement between the United States, Canada and Mexico for regular cross-border travellers.