More B.C. logs like these should be exported raw rather than not being used at all, says a logging industry spokesman. ((Jeff Bassett/Canadian Press))

A leading figure in B.C.'s forest industry is calling on the provincial government to reverse a longstanding policy and ease restrictions on the export of raw logs.

Any logs deemed surplus to the domestic industry should be offered to foreign buyers, says B.C. Truck Loggers Association executive director Dave Lewis.

'The reality is right now is nobody is going to be manufacturing anything' —Dave Lewis, B.C. Truck Loggers Association

"A lot of the mills that are shut down have timber rights. They're choosing not to harvest their own timber because they lose money at it. They lose money when they go to work," Lewis said Wednesday at a truck loggers convention in Victoria.

"The reality is right now is nobody is going to be manufacturing anything because we're uneconomic."

But if those mills could sell any surplus logs to foreign buyers, they could employ two workers in the bush for every one in a mill, Lewis said.

Premier Gordon Campbell addressed the convention Wednesday and expressed optimism about developing new markets for B.C. lumber in Asia but did not mention allowing more log exports.

A provincial government policy discourages exports of raw logs in order to help stimulate domestic industries that process logs into wood products.

But Lewis said economic conditions dictate a change.

"I would love to have every log that we cut down be able to be manufactured here, but I'm a realist," Lewis said.

He said the people behind a campaign urging the government to ban all raw log exports are wrong-headed.

"Those are people that have been in the industry 40 years and they wish that the industry was the way it was 40 years ago and the reality is it's not and it's never going to be."