Merritt mayor upset Tolko keeping forest license despite leaving

By Chad Klassen
March 27, 2017 - 3:30pm

MERRITT, B.C. — The mayor of Merritt is pushing back against the B.C. government and Tolko Industries, which, despite leaving Merritt last year, still has its license to harvest logs in the community.

In the four months since Tolko's closure, the company has been still logging there, but the logs aren't staying in Merritt, instead following Tolko, which is supplying its other mills in the province. 

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"They have so many cubic meters of timber in their license here in this area. They were able to hang on to that, so the logging is going to continue in that area that's Tolko's licensed area," says mayor of Merritt Neil Menard. "Our loggers, which is one good thing, will be logging it. But it'll be shipped out to their other mills outside the City of Merritt."

But Merritt mayor Neil Menard says it's unacceptable and is strongly against what Tolko is doing. He met with Minister of Forest, Lands and Natural Resources Steve Thomson last week, voicing his opposition. 

"We went in with what we thought was some pretty good arguments as to why it should not be left with Tolko. It should be returned to us, because it's our timber, and we should be using it to put on more shifts at Aspen. Those logs should be here and that's what we're pushing for."

Thomson says he can't take away solely Tolko's license. 

"The Forest Act doesn't allow me to reduce just one replaceable license at the expense of others, so we made the difficult decision to make sure we kept replaceable licenses in place for the region and for the community, which protects those jobs in those other mills," says Thomson. 

But B.C. NDP leader John Horgan, who was at Domtar in Kamloops on Monday to promote the forest industry in the Southern Interior, says harvested logs need to stay local. 

"I don't believe you should be able to access our public forest when you're not providing any public benefit. I'll sit down with Tolko when I get the opportunity," says Horgan. "The election is in 43 days. I hope to form government on the 10th of May, and the first order of business will be going to Merritt to talk to Neil and make sure we do something for the struggling people in that community."

In the sit-down conservation, Menard was told by Thomson the annual allowable cut in the region has been reduced as well from 2.4 million cubic metres to 1.5 million cubic metres.

Menard isn't expecting tolko to ever re-open its mill in Merritt. He just wants the province to return what he feels belongs to the city, so it could potentially create more work for people there.

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