Original Published 11:16 May 19, 2022

By John Boivin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The owner of Box Lake Lumber says after months of uncertainty, he can see a way forward for his embattled Nakusp-based lumber mill.

“It hasn’t all come to fruition at this point in time, but I am really hoping it will all work out,” says Dan Wiebe. “I am very thankful.”

The 40-year-old mill’s problems began in earnest last fall, when the Province announced it would defer the logging of old-growth forests “to prevent irreversible biodiversity loss while First Nations, the Province and other partners develop a new approach to sustainable forest management that prioritizes ecosystem health and community prosperity.” 

To support the deferral process, government immediately ceased advertising and selling BC Timber Sales in the affected areas, drying up Box Lake’s supply of old-growth wood.

Weibe sounded the alarm, and work began to save Box Lake Lumber. And some of it is beginning to bear fruit. 

Weibe said other companies working in the area – including Interfor and Celgar – have been exploring the possibility of supplying Box Lake with at least some of the wood they need to operate. He says he’s been gratified by the support of the community’s businesses and political leaders. And he even has some good words for a provincial government representative who has been trying to find solutions to Box Lake Lumber’s supply problems.

“The government put Mike Faulkner in to assist us in just seeing if there’s a way for us to locate wood fibre. We’ve been searching many places, so I’m really thankful,” he says. “Where I should have been out of wood already, I’m getting wood from Celgar… they’re going to continue doing that until June. So that’s encouraging for us.”

Despite all that good work, Wiebe says Box Lake Lumber will be a much-reduced company. They’ve laid off about 15 staff, may have to let go of another 10, and adjusted the work shifts of the remaining employees. He says they’ve also pretty much eliminated their production of shakes, since old-growth timber was used for that product.

“I see our mill having to downsize a bit to reduce its volumes,” he says. “But truthfully, without the support of those other groups, I would see us having to downsize even more.” 

He says diversification of their wood supply, a few more painful layoffs, being flexible in managing their production lines and finding new sources of wood “should allow Box Lake to continue in a sustainable way, in a different way than we’ve ever operated before,” he told the Valley Voice.

“I feel it will be a different avenue for Box Lake Lumber,” he says. “The guys I have are great workers, so I’m thankful that we have assistance and these guys will be able to continue working in Nakusp and living here. I’m seeing a bit of light at the end of the tunnel.”

This item reprinted with permission from Valley Voice, New Denver, British Columbia