A small northern Vancouver island community is in peril after an almost 90-year-old logging company is being forced to shut down.
W.D. Moore Logging, founded in 1928, is closing its doors this month, putting a total of 25 people out of work in the community of Winter Harbour, which is located on the northwest coast of Vancouver Island, 42 km west of Port Hardy.
“It’s very sad. It’s sad for the employees, it’s sad for the families, it’s sad for the community,” said Graham Lasure, owner of W.D. Moore Logging, whose family has run the company for three generations. “It’s been a great legacy, and it’s too bad we can’t carry it on.”
The company will be selling 95 pieces of equipment and ceasing operations because they are unable to make a return on its investments.
“Winter Harbour was hit pretty bad with the commercial fishing loss, and now that we are gone there will be almost no one here during the winter,” said Lasure, adding “It’s going to basically be a ghost town in the winter.”
The company’s closure will also mean the community’s general store will have to close down during the winter season.
“The logger related business was enough to justify keeping the lights and heat on and keep limited store hours in the winter,” said Greg Vance, owner of the Winter Harbour General Store.
“There are plenty of fantastic, long-time W.D. Moore employees and management who are like family to us, and the loss of them will be a real blow to Winter Harbour,” explained Vance.
Lasure said Winter Harbour has about two full-time residents apart from the crew employed by W.D. Moore.
“We have a few long term employees that have spent their lives here and now will have to leave,” he said, adding “most of the people have made their homes here – a couple of my employees have been here since they were about 16 and worked here for over 30 years.”
Lasure has operated the company since 1984, taking over from his step-father Bill Moore, whose father Albert founded the company in the late 20s after spending time working as a timber cruiser for the government.
“Bill Moore was a character and a well-known supporter of the forest industry,” said David Elstone of the Trucker and Logger Association, which is an organization comprised of small coastal logging operators and their suppliers.
“It’s sad we have a business that has been around for almost 90 years, they have been through thick and thin booms and busts, but now that legacy is no longer,” said Elstone, adding “that’s why it’s such a sad day.”
In the 1960s Moore founded a non-profit organization called Festival of Forestry in Vancouver, with the goal of educating urban teachers about forestry practices and it’s place in BC society.
The organization still runs a program of touring BC teachers from the lower mainland through forest operations around the province.
Moore was also a poet and avid jazz musician, using the boom years of logging in the late 60s to help finance three ‘Downtown Winter Harbour Music Festivals’ in 1967, 1969, and 1971.
“I’m the third generation, but I guess we couldn’t quite make a fourth,” said Lasure.
W.D. Moore Logging made $6-7 million annually and Lasure said it was spent locally on employee wages and suppliers.
With the closure of the company, Winter Harbour will be left without many essential services.
“We have a pretty big impact on Winter Harbour because we run the waste recycling program, grate the roads for free, and we supply fire and first aid for people in need here,” said Lasure, adding “we do a lot for the community because we believe in it.”
Elstone noted there is a lot of frustration in the contracting sector of BC. “The small guys are leaving,” he said, adding “there should be a more fair share of timber tenures in British Columbia, maybe that would result in guys like Graham still being able to operate their business today.”
W.D. Moore employees will not be without work, as Lasure said the contract is being taken over by another company in the North Island so “they won’t lose their jobs, they will just have to go elsewhere.”
Lasure is hopeful that Winter Harbour will survive, as fishing draws many people to the area in the summer. “They will manage, they always have,” he said. “Winter Harbour has always had its ups and downs.”