region's lumber industry continued to grow during this period, which was
also marked by the closure of some sawmills and the sale of others to larger
the late 60s and early 70s, circular saws in sawmills were replaced by
ribbon saws to reduce waste and increase production. To guarantee their
new mill's profit, entrepreneurs had to increase their short and long term
timber supply. Selin's closure let other companies
obtain logging rights in private townships owned by Transcontinental Timber
(these private townships were sold to Domtar in 1976).
point occurred when the MPP for Cochrane-North, René Brunelle, became
Minister of Lands and Forests in 1971. Mr. Brunelle allowed holders of
logging licences on Crown lands to increase their harvest by 10 000 cords.
was also in the early 1970s that companies started installing dry kilns
for their lumber. This development followed incidents in 1971 where lumber
shipped by local mills was returned from the United States because it was
infested with worms (the wood came from trees knocked down by a hurricane
in 1968 north of Fushimi Lake Provincial Park). Roland Cloutier, a United
Sawmill partner at the time, explains:
only way to kill worms is to dry the lumber. From there (this incident),
the first dry kiln was bought” (Excerpt from an interview with Roland Cloutier,
drying of lumber was required in the United States because it also reduced
torsion in wood. Following the installation of dry kilns, sawmills from
the region and elsewhere began exporting more wood to the United States.
In order to protect their producers, American authorities increased custom
duties on Canadian lumber. It is the beginning of a commercial war that
would last several decades.
working conditions continued to evolve. Unionization was established permanently
in all lumber enterprises and a few strikes occurred during this period.
Like mill workers, forest workers left camps to live with their families.
Forest work was increasingly bestowed upon contractors and many workers
became owners of their equipment.
1974, Newaygo Timber, a pulpwood company, undertook
the construction of a modern, $5 million sawmill in Mead. Exploitation
took place in the company's private townships where it had harvested pulpwood
since the 1920s for its paper mill in the U.S. The shutting down of this
paper mill incited the company to build a sawmill rather than end its operations
in the region.
other lumbermen, wood supply was a major preoccupation in the 1970s. For
example, in 1974, Levesque Lumber bought
out logging concessions belonging to Spruce Dale Lumber, owned by the Christianson
family of Mattice. Their mill was closing after only three years of operation.
Hearst Lumbermen Association continued to put pressure on the government
in hopes of obtaining larger logging territories for companies. The long
term survival of the industry and of the town of Hearst were at stake.
epic battle was fought over logging rights along the Hornepayne road. The
Ontario Paper Company was then the holder of these logging rights. However,
the Hearst Lumbermen Association contended that the forests in question
contained a large amount of jackpine, a type of tree not used by Ontario
Paper for pulpwood. After years of lobbying, the Minister of Natural Resources,
Leo Bernier, finally granted four and a half townships to local entrepreneurs.
Local bosses claimed that without the granting of these logging rights,
the industry and the town of Hearst could not have survived.
the early 80s, with the help of Minister of Natural Resources Alan Pope,
the Hearst Lumbermen Association concluded third party agreements with
Kapuskasing's Spruce Falls and Longlac’s Kimberly Clark to allow lumber
enterprises to pay to harvest timber on their territories. Pulpwood companies
had a reduced need in timber since sawmills were able to feed them wood
1980, the BioShell factory was built in Hearst. The factory, owned by Shell
International, was the first in Canada to compress residues from sawmills
into wood fiber bricks usable as industrial fuel. Sawmills thus had a way
to get rid of bark and wood residues hitherto destined to burners. Beforehand,
lumbermen had considered the construction of a power plant using those
early 1980s was marked by the consolidation of enterprises. Partners of
Sawmill, who were doing business separately, united to operate under
the lone name of United Sawmill Ltd. In 1982, Lecours
Lumber bought out Gosselin Lumber along
with its 32,000 cords logging licence for $3.5 million. In 1984, plagued
by various problems, the Newaygo sawmill was
forced to close down.
on, difficult negotiations began between lumber enterprises and the Ministry
of Natural Resources in order to create an agreement governing the management
of the forest surrounding Hearst (Forest Management Agreement, or FMA).
Such agreements already existed elsewhere in the province and were aimed
at coordinating the harvesting and regeneration of the forest. Despite
Lumber's refusal to join in, the agreement (Hearst Forest Management
Agreement) was signed in 1985 by Lecours Lumber
Co. Ltd. and United Sawmill Ltd. In order
to ratify the agreement, these two companies requested that three townships
north and two townships west of Opasatika be added to the Hearst forest.
In accordance with the agreement, companies' logging licences fell under
the jurisdiction of the Hearst FMA and were redistributed to the companies.
Roland Cloutier became the Hearst FMA’s first manager. After retiring,
he was succeeded by Denis Cheff, Hearst FMA’s current manager.
early 1990s are marked by the end of local ownership of local sawmills.
1989, United Sawmill Ltd. shareholders decided
to sell the company to Malette Inc. of Timmins.
to harvest timber from the Caithness Township that had been ravaged by
spruce bud worm in the 1980s, combined with a reduction in lumber and wood
chip markets, Levesque Lumber suffered serious
financial hardships and closed down in 1992, bringing about the loss of
400 jobs. Its 58,000-cord Crown lands logging licence was split between
the Malette-United and Lecours Lumber Co. Ltd.
1994, Tembec bought the Malette company. Shortly afterwards, Levesque
Plywood was sold to Columbia Forest Products, an American company.
2006, Lecours Lumber Co. Ltd. is the last
remaining large independent sawmill in Ontario. It constitutes the last
stand of local entrepreneurs who established the regional lumber industry.