Vernon, British Columbia, Canada 24 February 2010 - The record warm temperatures that have covered British Columbia this winter are forcing unseasonal closures to many harvest areas. This, combined with an ongoing legal dispute with the Okanagan Indian Band (OKIB), has resulted in the need to curtail Tolko Industries Ltd.’s Armstrong sawmill operations for two weeks, commencing March 8th, 2010. The scheduled restart will be dependent on fibre supply.
Due to the prolonged warm weather, the Ministry of Transportation has implemented load weight restrictions that effectively prevent log hauling on a number of roads in the Okanagan area. These restrictions, which have occurred weeks earlier than in a typical year, makes many harvest areas inaccessible for forest operations.
The company’s Tree Farm License in the Brown’s Creek is not restricted by these measures. However, this crucial fibre source continues to be blocked by the actions of the OKIB.
In October of 2009, the OKIB established a road block preventing Tolko logging operations in the Browns Creek area. Not being able to act on the Brown’s Creek area cutting permits issued by the province 2 ½ years ago has resulted in a further shortage of log supply for the Armstrong sawmill operation. Tolko’s Okanagan Woodlands Regional Manager Mark Tamas says “this area represents an important fibre supply to the Armstrong Division.”
Tolko filed an injunction through the Supreme Court of British Columbia to have the road block removed. The injunction was subsequently granted but the OKIB has recently defied the court order and has re-established the road block. After four months of prolonged legal process, the matter is now being returned to the courts for an enforcement order.
“This situation is both frustrating and unacceptable. We respect the legal process and the rulings of the Court, and we ask the OKIB to do the same,” says Tamas.
“For the sake of our employees, customers and other stakeholders, we need this matter concluded.”
Tolko’s sawmill at Armstrong employs 175 people and produces approximately 210 million board feet of lumber annually.
Tolko Industries Ltd. is a private, Canadian-owned forest products company based in Vernon, British Columbia. Tolko is a major producer and marketer of lumber, veneer, plywood, oriented strand board, and kraft papers, with manufacturing operations across Western Canada. The Company’s Woodlands operations have received world-recognized third-party certification of their sustainable forest management systems.