Resiliency & Change in BC Forests

BC’s forests, forest industry and its forest dependent communities are in the midst of a transition that is unprecedented, delegates to the forests policy session heard on Tuesday afternoon.  Presenters confirmed and described the present crisis and pointed to signs of hope for rural communities.

Forests Minister Doug Donaldson reminded attendees that BC’s rural communities and its larger cities are all dependent on forestry.  

At least 22 mills in BC’s interior have either closed or curtailed their operations this year. “We need to manage our forests differently to create more resiliency in face of climate pressures, addressing carbon issues, water issues and many other issues,” Donaldson said.  Citing engineered wood and improved skills and training, he invited attendees to embrace his vision of a brighter future for forestry communities based on a newfound maturity focused on value rather than volume.

An expert forestry panel addressed the compounded issues and opportunities that forest-dependent communities face.  All presenters acknowledged the commitment, talent and expertize of BC’s professional foresters as an invaluable asset in face of the crisis.

Deputy Chief Forester Shane Berg offered that despite the challenges, BC’s forests are its Crown Jewels.  Berg cited forest health, wildfire, drought and climate change and species at risk as all impacting the current annual allowable cut. He also pointed to sensitively harvesting dead standing trees as a way to maximize value while managing for younger forests.

What is surprising, according Jeff Mycock, West Fraser’s Chief Forester, was not that the transition was coming, but the speed with which it has overtaken the province. He remains nonetheless confident in the future of BC’s forests.

Jennifer Gunter, BC Community Forest Association Executive Director, pointed to BC’s 59 community forests and the growth of this tenure model, with its lens on multiple values, as an hopeful sign. Protecting watersheds and developing tourism amenities, for example, can support more resilient forests and communities.

The session culminated with inspiring presentations by City of Quesnel Mayor Bob Simpson and City of Prince Rupert CFO Corrine Bomben about how their communities are addressing the profound economic challenges brought about by changes in the forest industry and growing a positive future.

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