B.C.’s new vision for sustainable forest policy

THE B.C. government announced on Tuesday that it has set out its vision for a forestry sector that is more diverse, competitive, focused on sustainability and puts people and communities first.

“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 government said its 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.

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.

 

Quick Facts:

  • 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.
  • The intentions paper is government’s response to the long-term vision for forestry that the industry has been asking for.
  • It also reflects the feedback government has received from all forestry stakeholders and Indigenous Nations to address some of the issues facing the industry.
  • 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.

Learn More:

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

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