The British Columbia government is launching a regionally driven renewal of the province’s Interior forest industry, aimed at developing a competitive, sustainable future for forest companies, workers and communities.
In announcing the renewal initiative during a speech to the Council of Forest Industries (COFI), Premier John Horgan said he already has written to the chief executives of Interior forest companies, inviting them to lead the process with government and to partner with labour leaders, First Nations and communities to chart a sustainable path forward. While focusing on the entire Interior forest industry, individual strategy discussions will be carried out in each timber supply area (TSA).
“This will be a local process, led by those who are committed to the future of forestry in their regions, and who are willing to do the tough work to create a shared vision of a prosperous, competitive industry,” Premier Horgan said. “We will expect the results to maximize the potential of the existing timber supply, maintain jobs, incorporate First Nations’ interests, and address the economic, cultural, recreational and other uses of B.C.’s land base.”
This renewal strategy comes just months after government launched a similar initiative for the coastal forest industry. But the Interior industry faces its own unique challenges – after years of enhanced cut levels when the pine beetle epidemic was at its peak, the industry is now facing significantly reduced timber supply and record wildfire seasons, as well as lower prices for Western spruce, fir and pine lumber. This initiative will focus specifically on ways to increase value-added production from a reduced wood fibre supply.
“Enhancing competitiveness for our forest industry means shifting some production from high volume to high value,” Premier Horgan said. “It’s a step forward that we all must take if we want a future defined by opportunity and sustainability.”
“This process will empower regions to maintain forest-industry competitiveness within a framework that is locally led and collaboratively driven, leading to a secure future for forest-dependent communities by building, creating and innovating using B.C. wood,” said Doug Donaldson, Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development.
To help increase market demand for value-added production – and as part of the CleanBC plan to reduce climate pollution – government announced earlier this year that it was changing the building code to allow the construction of wood buildings up to 12 storeys, using fire-resistant engineered wood.
The Premier announced that government is taking the next major step by requiring engineered wood to be used wherever possible for the construction of two major projects: the new Royal BC Museum in Victoria and the new St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver.
“This is the beginning of the change our forest industry needs,” Premier Horgan said. “We have committed $20 billion in public infrastructure over the next three years – schools, housing, hospitals and more. I have directed that all these projects consider the use of engineered wood as a primary building material, whenever and wherever possible.”
Where local coalitions and commitments emerge at the TSA level, government will enable a facilitated planning process, provide capacity support to First Nations, and deliver analytical resources to assist local coalitions in developing a vision for industry competitiveness and transition, and community economic stability.
“There’s no question this will be a period of unprecedented change, but British Columbians are ready to meet that challenge,” Premier Horgan said. “People in this industry are proud of where they live and what they do, and our government will work with them every step of the way to make sure they have a secure future in the communities they call home.”
Revitalizing the forest sector is a shared priority with the BC Green Party caucus, and is part of the Confidence and Supply Agreement.
Premier John Horgan’s letter to the B.C. Interior forest sector:
Cumulative percentage of merchantable forest volume killed since 1999:
Mountain pine beetle-affected timber supply areas:
Interior harvest in pine beetle affected timber supply areas, 1999-2018: