President & CEO, Coast Forest Products Association
President’s Perspective – More Similarities Than Differences
With the writ for the May 14th British Columbia provincial election about to be dropped the parties have now released their forestry platforms. It doesn’t appear that there are significant, contentious wedge issues in forest policy.
Both mainstream parties share common elements when it comes to policy. These include: plans for skills and employment training that can benefit the forest sector; strong support for the market development partnership between industry and government; providing additional funding for silviculture activities and assisting affected communities in the mountain pine beetle areas; and money for forest inventories and research. The parties also both recognize that log exports are important but differ in opinion regarding the appropriate amount. This highlights that while they appear to agree on these issues, how they are designed, delivered and funded is of vital importance. To this end, we must learn from past mistakes and build on our recent successes.
Both leaders of the BC Liberal Party and the BC NDP have stated publicly that a major rewrite of forest policy is not in the cards. Fortuitously, the emergent recovery of U.S. and global forest products markets will provide both the forest industry and the government with the opportunity to make investments in the resource and the business. Therefore, forest policy must allow us to focus on capitalizing on improving markets and new opportunities in emerging markets for carbon-friendly and climate-friendly forest products. Achieving this will ensure that British Colombians will share in the prosperity generated by forestry.
For the coastal forest sector, this means continuing to collaborate closely with government in key areas including: improving access to the entire forest profile; stability of tenure; ensuring BC Timber Sales supplies wood to the mills; making advances in scaling technologies to reduce wood handling costs; continuing valuable research and development in new products, markets and supply chain efficiencies; completing the Great Bear Rainforest agreement; ensuring connection with communities; driving continued improvement in safety; commitment to market based pricing and recognition of the benefits of the softwood lumber agreement; supporting the technical foundation for forest planning and permitting including the use of professional reliance in the delivery of forest management; government engagement and collaboration with industry in addressing the ever evolving forestry issues of the day; and working with First Nations to ensure they are directly benefiting from forestry activities. This is not a sexy list but the important work is never glamorous.
Policies change and evolve and often represent the best solution out of an array of imperfect ones. However, whatever they are, they must support good forest stewardship. Healthy forests result from strong forest stewardship and provide us with a sustainable source of materials that support an innovative, high-tech, high-value forest sector and provide family-supporting livelihoods for people young and old. Without all of this the quality of our lives as British Columbians would be seriously diminished. This is why the coast forest sector takes forest stewardship and the forest economy seriously and will continue to do so well after election day.