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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Changes in location and structure in the forest industry of North Central British Columbia : 1909-1966 Mullins, Doreen Katherine

Abstract

Forests and the forest industry have been dominant features in North Central British Columbia since initial settlement of the area in the 1900's. Trees have been logged and sawed into lumber to be sold to the residents of the three prairie provinces, and more recently, peeled for plywood and chipped for pulp to be exported abroad. As a result of the region's peripheral location and dependence upon these distant markets, the industry has had to adjust continuously to external pressures. Changing conditions such as expansion or contraction of markets, government decisions to build railways, changes in provincial forest management policies, and the introduction of a pulp economy to the area, have forced the industry to adapt its processes and products so that the North Central Interior could compete with other forest product regions. A gradual rationalization of the industry has occurred in both the structure and location of producing units within the region. Several periods in the development of the industry are identifiable as a series of external stimuli, and internal responses. In its initial years, in the early 1900's, the industry consisted of a few sawmills cutting rough lumber along the upper Fraser River. Later, in the years prior to World War II, poor market conditions restricted the industry in size, technological improvement and areal spread. The buoyant market conditions of the 1940's and 1950's encouraged growth in the number of operations and dispersion of cutting operations into remote areas. At this time, shortages of labour, equipment and capital combined with an indefinite forest management policy promoted the development of a large number of small, undercapitalized operations. The growth of large-scale production units, diversification of production and areal concentration of conversion plants have been the responses of the industry in the 1960's. A number of external forces such as changes in provincial forest management policies, changing market demands and rising labour costs have encouraged these responses. This thesis presents an overview of the development of the forest industry, rather than concentrating upon the individual locative decision. Particular firms are used, however, to illustrate changes in structure and location which are characteristic of certain periods. Emphasis is also placed upon the role exogenous forces and traditional locative factors have played in the changes. Interviews with entrepreneurs in the area, and data from trade journals and government publications provide most of the information presented here. The changes in size and location of producing units within the forest industry of North Central British Columbia from 1909 to 1966 are outlined first, with particular reference to external influences and industry responses. Comparisons are made of the structure and spatial patterns of the industry in 1925, 1950 and 1966. An analysis of (a) the external forces, (b) the internal adjustments of the region and, (c) the resultant pattern of location, constitutes the major part of the study. A summary of these forces, predictions of the future pattern of development and an outline of the general findings of this examination conclude the thesis.

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