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Summit in Corner Brook highlights need to squeeze more value out of forestry sector

Robin Philpott’s family has been operating one of the largest sawmills in Newfoundland and Labrador for more than four decades and are eager to forge new paths in the province’s forestry sector.
Robin Philpott’s family has been operating one of the largest sawmills in Newfoundland and Labrador for more than four decades and are eager to forge new paths in the province’s forestry sector. - Gary Kean

With Newfoundland and Labrador’s forestry industry on the rebound in many ways and the province set on building more momentum, Robin Philpott is proud to be one of the driving forces.

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Philpott represents the fourth generation of his family to be involved in their business, Cottles Island Lumber Company Limited in Summerford.

He was in Corner Brook to participate in a forestry sector summit Monday morning.

During the event, the provincial government outlines its plans to strengthen and diversify the forestry sector. It was noted that, while the province’s sawmill industry dropped from producing a high of 120 million board feet of lumber down to 66 million, it managed to get back to around 92 million in 2018.

Cottles Island Lumber Company is one of the three larger sawmills in the province. Philpott said the difference with them is they are not seeking higher volumes of wood, but new ways to use every last bit of the resources they already have.

Cottles Island already has a secondary processing facility that takes the dimensional lumber its sawmill produces and turns into value-added products such as flooring, siding and paneling.

But there is still leftover bark, sawdust and small-diameter wood. Corner Brook Pulp and Paper has reduced the amount of that material it had been taking from Cottles Island, but Philpott said it still has potential value as a product.

So, the company has turned its attention to the energy sector and supplying processed wood products as fuel sources.

He said there are plenty of facilities that currently use a lot of non-renewable petroleum products for heat and energy.

“What would that look like in terms of biomass, whether that be dried chips or bark in a boiler setup or co-generation facility?” he asked. “Those are the sort of opportunities we are looking into to squeeze all the value and all the use we can get out of wood fibre.”

While he appreciates the more than 40 years of history his family’s business has, he is intent on writing a new chapter or two in the years to come.

“I am deeply invested in our story and in our heritage, but I don’t want to be someone who just rides on the coattails of someone else,” he said. “I want to do something truly unique to protect what we have and to bring us forward.”

Bill Dawson, executive director of the Newfoundland and Labrador Forest Industry Association, is excited these days because he’s a firm believer the province’s forestry industry has the knowledge, experience and drive to grow with the support of the forestry sector work plan unveiled by the provincial government Monday.
Bill Dawson, executive director of the Newfoundland and Labrador Forest Industry Association, is excited these days because he’s a firm believer the province’s forestry industry has the knowledge, experience and drive to grow with the support of the forestry sector work plan unveiled by the provincial government Monday.

 

The province’s work plan

The provincial government outlined some of the strategies identified by the forestry sector work plan it unveiled Monday.

Here are some of the goals and actions identified by the work plan:

In terms of sustainable forest management

• Increase wood harvesting and permit allocations by 20 per cent by 2022 (currently at 16 per cent over 2016 baseline)

• Work with Corner Brook Pulp and Paper to maintain sustainability and competitiveness

• Streamline forest management planning and reduce land use conflicts

• Conduct legislative and regulatory reviews

• Enhance provincial forest inventory and multi-year operational planning

• Undertake a review of provincial silviculture treatments and applied research

In terms of research, innovation and diversification

• Support production increases, innovation and diversification of products

• Investigate and secure markets for small diameter wood and wood chips

• Develop the bio-energy sector and explore opportunities to pilot the use of biomass in heating

• Enhance secondary wood manufacturing through a wage subsidy program with the Department of Advanced Education, Skills and Labour

• Establish a Canada Research Chair on land use at Grenfell Campus, Memorial University in Corner Brook

• Examine the feasibility of creating a wood products innovation centre in Corner Brook, to be housed in the former Corner Brook Pulp and Paper human resources building

• Establish a wood-sorting facility in Corner Brook that would separate the different species and sizes of harvested timber and direct it to enterprises that could use it.

• Advance climate change research to advance forestry

• Promote use of green, energy-efficient materials for building construction

• Evaluate green innovative projects to reduce harvesting and transportation costs

• Review transport trailer configurations and weight allowances to maximize payloads

Source: Government of Newfoundland and Labrador

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