There has been concern expressed about the lack of available birch firewood in Thunder Bay. The events playing out now regarding the breakdown of a deal to sell the shuttered Resolute mill in Fort Frances prompt me to write, as I see the two issues linked.
Writers have said there is no birch available, that Resolute is taking it all for grinding. The MNR responded, that there is birch, but a lack of producers. This is true. What hasn’t happened is a closer examination of the issues. Mac Squires, with his column (Oct. 18), weighed in saying the people deserve answers.
When you have a forestry licence, there are rules and conditions to abide by. Anyone cutting wood has to be certified. The forest is also certified. Anyone on the job site has to be covered by the operator’s WSIB, unless they can provide a clearance certificate. These measures are in place to protect people from injury and that the forest is harvested to MNR rules and guidelines.
There are restrictions in areas close to lakes, roads and in fire season, depending on the weather. Every block has maps showing no-cut areas, boundaries, etc.
If Joe Blow wants to head out with his chain saw and maybe an ATV to go cut some wood, he is most likely unaware of any of this. Is he going to carry out a winter’s wood pile on his shoulders. This is why most people buy their wood, either cut and split or in round lengths delivered by truck to their yard.
There is indeed a shortage of operators. It is very expensive today to cut wood commercially. Roads have to be built, culverts installed, expensive repairs to machinery, etc. Fuel costs have doubled in the last few years. Rates paid for wood are 10 years old. People work long hours just trying to pay costs, let alone make a living. Many contractors have left the industry, either voluntarily or been forced out. Resolute had been supplying a lot of the market through two subcontractors cutting close to town. When they redirected this fibre to the co-gen plant, a shortage ensued.

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