Full logging truck drives on logging road toward camera

Who Owns Vancouver Island – Or A Lot of It?

Pension funds, insurance companies and logging companies own the biggest share of our island

The wild west – Vancouver Island’s private land logging empire

More than 1/5th of Vancouver Island is privately owned and is being logged by pension funds and investment companies.  This private land empire is a legacy of the 19th century E & N Land Grant, one of the biggest land grabs in Canadian history.

The E & N giveaway has greatly impacted the ecology and economy of the island, especially communities dependent on their forests. Over the past 150 years, the E & N lands have been cut and parcelled, sold, resold, and heavily logged. Most of these lands are managed under the Private Managed Forest Land Act, a largely toothless provincial regulation that has permitted decades of unsustainable logging.

Here’s a look a Vancouver Island’s private land loggers by the numbers -who they are, how much land they own, and how many logs they export (1 cubic metre is roughly equal to 1 telephone pole worth of wood.)

TimberWest Forest Corp.
Suite 2000
1055 West Hastings St.
Vancouver, BC
V6E 2E9

TimberWest is the largest private land logger and the largest exporter of raw logs in BC. The company is owned by two pension funds, British Columbia Investment Management Corporation and the Public Sector Pension Investment Board. They bought TimberWest in 2011 for $1 billion.

Number of hectares owned on Vancouver Island:  325,400 ha

Number of mills on Vancouver Island: 0

Number of cubic metres of raw logs exported in 2016: 2 million

Number of employees: 70

Annual sales: Undisclosed

TimberWest is increasingly shifting into real estate. The company has deemed that more than 55,000 hectares of its island land holdings have become more valuable as real estate than for trees. According to the company’s website, its real estate arm, Couverdon, plans to make more of its property available for development over the next 10 to 15 years.

Island Timberlands
201-648 Terminal Avenue
Nanaimo, BC V9R 5E2

Number of mills on Vancouver Island: 0

Number of cubic metres of raw logs advertised for export in 2016: 1.5 million

Number of employees: 150 employees

Island Timberlands was formed in 2005 after Weyerhaeuser sold all of its coastal BC private lands. The company is owned and managed by British Columbia Investment Management Corporation and Alberta Investment Management Corporation.

In 2018, TimberWest and Island Timberlands signed an agreement to share resources, roads, and infrastructure. Vancouver-based Mosaic Forest Management now manages harvest operations and sales for the two companies. In 2019, Mosaic advertised nearly 3 million cubic metres of TImberWest and Island Timberlands raw logs for sale.

Hancock Timber Resource Group (HTRG)
197 Clarendon St.
Boston, MA 02116-5010

Number of hectares owned on Vancouver Island: 21,000

Number of mills on Vancouver Island: 0

Number of employees: unknown

HTRG is the private forest management arm of Boston-based John Hancock Financial. After a 2004 merger, John Hancock became a subsidiary of Manulife Financial to form the 2nd largest insurance firm in North America.

John Hancock manages land assets in Canada, the US, Chile, New Zealand and Australia, worth more than $13 billion.

Western Forest Products
Suite 800
1055 West Georgia Street
Royal Centre, PO Box 11122
Vancouver, BC
V6E 3P3

Number of hectares owned on Vancouver Island: 24,000

Number of mills on Vancouver Island: 5

Number of employees (province-wide): more than 2000

 Annual sales: $965 million

Number of cubic metres exported in 2020: 280,000

Western Forest Products is a publicly-traded company and one of BC’s largest lumber producers. The Vancouver-based company is also an active exporter of raw logs and the only private land logger on Vancouver Island that still owns and operates mills on the island.