New sustainable forest policy released
The B.C. government June 1 set out its vision for the forestry sector.
A Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development media release stated the government’s vision to modernize forest policy and protect old growth will take time to fully implement. It is focused 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.
“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. “We inherited our beautiful ancient forests, and we owe it to future generations to protect them. We have already taken action by deferring hundreds of thousands of hectares and protecting 1,500 groves with big, iconic trees. But we know there is more to do. 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 released intentions paper reinforces government’s other actions on forests, including the commitment to implement all recommendations coming out of the independent old growth review. Additionally, the proposed changes to forestry policy will address the rapid decline of available timber and promote higher-value wood products like mass timber. It also recognizes that responsibly managed forests are a legacy for future generations. They are a high-value resource in a global market demanding more sustainably sourced goods.
“The future of the forest industry impacts us all, so what we do now is vitally important,” said Katrine Conroy, Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development. “We are taking action to not only address the challenges facing forestry in British Columbia today, but also so our children and grandchildren may benefit from the opportunities our forests provide.”
The proposed changes to forest policy as outlined in a new intentions paper include a compensatory framework to redistribute forest tenures to Indigenous Nations, forest communities and small operators. In addition, the paper includes the continued commitment to act on the recommendations of the Old Growth Strategic Review in collaboration with Indigenous leaders, local governments, labour, industry and environmental groups. This work must balance the need to support and protect workers with the need for additional old-growth protection.
“The forest sector is integral to the well-being of B.C. communities, whether they are large or small, rural or urban. Finding a way forward that recognizes and mitigates climate change, the broader values of forests to communities and contributes to sustainable local jobs and economies is crucial, and I’m pleased to see the Province moving in this direction,” stated Brian Frenkel, Union of BC Municipalities president.
“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. This paper confirms the need for the Crown and First Nations to continue to work together with all the necessary stakeholders on where that path goes,” noted Dallas Smith, President, Nanwakolas Council, and Great Bear Relic.
Bob Brash, executive director of the Truck Loggers Association said, “While early days in this initiative, the principles of enhancing participation and strengthening the forest sector, improving its social contract and enhancing stewardship are admirable objectives. 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.”
Dan Battistella, president, Interior Lumber Manufacturers’ Association (ILMA) added: “As an association that represents many of the last remaining small and medium-sized independent specialty manufacturing facilities, the ILMA has always advocated for a diverse industry that extracts the most value from our sustainably managed forests, and that provides for family supporting jobs. This modernizing forest policy initiative announced today looks to redefine the future of our industry by moving to a more value focus with more community involvement. We are excited to work with government to ensure many positive outcomes are realized from this approach.”
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.
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.