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Posted: July 18, 2019

Feedback sought on new Interior forest sector approach

The B.C. government is accepting public input in shaping an Interior forest sector that will innovate, create jobs and support communities for generations to come.

“The previous government failed to help the forest sector when it had a chance, eroding the public’s trust in B.C.’s forest sector operations and diminishing its competitive advantage,” said Doug Donaldson, Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development. “We are taking action and making different choices by asking for local input and insight into how we want to shape a prosperous, competitive and culturally sensitive Interior future forest sector.”

Lower prices for lumber, pressure from foreign trade action, a shrinking timber supply due to back-to-back wildfire seasons and the end of the mountain pine beetle salvage harvest have resulted in recent mill closures and curtailments in the Interior, a July 18 Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development media release states.

The province is supporting impacted communities and workers through community transition and response teams that liaise with local governments, the federal government, industry, labour, employment support programs and organizations, as well as post-secondary institutions. The teams respond to the unique needs in each impacted community, including lining up jobs and retraining, to maximize the ability of affected workers to stay in their communities over the long term and to work with impacted communities on economic development options.

Announced by Premier John Horgan in April 2019, and further to the work being done by community transition and response teams, the locally led Interior Forest Sector Renewal process aims to act on the factors contributing to mill closures. Using collaboration, innovation and creativity, the goal is to sustainably increase added value from B.C. forest products, such as mass timber and advanced bioproducts, while strengthening communities, maximizing employment and advancing reconciliation with First Nations.

Public engagement on a discussion paper that has been developed is one of two complementary, parallel streams within the Interior Forest Sector Renewal process. Between July 18 through to 4 p.m. on Oct. 11, members of the public are invited to participate in dialogue on the discussion paper by providing written submissions or feedback through an online survey.

Specific policy areas the public is being asked for input include:

* forest tenure and fibre supply;

* climate change and forest carbon;

* manufacturing capacity and fibre use;

* wood products innovation;

* reconciliation with Indigenous communities; and

* fibre and sustainability of timber and non-timber forest values.

At the same time, ministry staff are holding localized, in-person engagement on the discussion paper in various communities throughout the Interior with representatives of people, communities and organizations most deeply involved and affected by the forest sector, e.g., local and provincial elected officials and representatives, and First Nations, along with key forest sector stakeholders, industry, contractors, professionals and labour representatives.

The first localized engagement took place July 18, in Williams Lake. Further engagement sessions are scheduled for Interior forest sector communities throughout the summer and into fall 2019, including only two in the Kootenays, Castlegar and Cranbrook sometime between July 28 and Aug. 3.

Review the discussion paper, find information on how to provide a written submission and/or participate online.

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