June 2, 2021
The B.C. government released Tuesday what it says is a long-term vision for forestry that the industry has been asking for. While no specific legislative reforms have yet begun, the “intentions” paper gives a road map for forestry’s future in the wake of job losses, mill closures and a reduced timber supply.
“Forests are at the heart of our identity here in B.C. They are essential to a healthy environment and provide good jobs to tens of thousands of British Columbians,” said Premier John Horgan.
“Current forestry policies – put in place two decades ago – don’t adequately address today’s challenges. They have limited our options to adapt to the impacts of climate change, protect old growth, share the benefits fairly with local communities or move forward on reconciliation.”
The government’s vision to modernize forest policy and protect old growth focuses on three guiding principles: increased sector participation, enhanced stewardship and sustainability, and a strengthened social contract to give government more control over management of the sector.
Proposed changes to forest policy include a compensatory framework to redistribute forest tenures to Indigenous Nations, forest communities and small operators. The government says the paper also reinforces its commitment to implement all recommendations coming out of the Old Growth Strategic Review.
Future policy will also recognize forestry’s position in a global market demanding more sustainably sourced goods.
Dallas Smith, President, Nanwakolas Council, and Great Bear Relic, says:
“We are happy to see this government is ready to continue talking about solutions to forest health and management. There are a lot of challenging issues that need to be discussed with many parties, but respectful collaboration and dialogue will have greater impact and a more efficient path forward than the recent increase in activism….”
Bob Brash, executive director, Truck Loggers Association:
“….If the end result of working with organizations like ours and Indigenous peoples for improved forestry policies results in increased certainty for B.C.’s forestry workers and forest-dependent communities, while improving investment opportunities towards moving the sector forward, we can collectively be proud of this accomplishment.”
* Forestry is a key part of B.C.’s economy. In 2020, forest products represented 29% of B.C.’s total exports, valued at $11.5 billion. Forestry also provides good-paying jobs to more than 50,000 workers. Government’s commitment will balance the needs of the provincial economy with the concerns from industry that include job losses, mill closures and inadequate Indigenous collaboration.
* In 2018-19, most major Interior forestry companies in B.C. announced curtailments at their sawmills due to lower lumber prices, reduced demand, high log costs, softwood lumber border tariffs and issues in accessing timber.
* Though there has been a rebound in the industry and lumber prices are currently high, 20 lumber mills are in active, current or planned curtailment or closure status.
* In addition, there have been 1,620 permanent, 420 temporary and 820 indefinite job losses in the forestry sector.
A summary presentation of government’s intentions paper is available here: https://news.gov.bc.ca/files/Modernize_Forest_Policy_Presentation.pdf
To view the modern forest policy, visit: https://www.gov.bc.ca//modernforestpolicy
From a BC Government News release, June 1, 2021