Wood first a priority of new forest strategy

Natural resource operations minister Steve Thomson announces a new forest sector strategy for the province at Gorman Brothers Lumber.

Mary Tracey of Gorman Brothers Lumber points out the beauty and environmental qualities of selecting wood as a construction material

Mary Tracey of Gorman Brothers Lumber points out the beauty and environmental qualities of selecting wood as a construction material

What is today a North America-wide initiative, to consider the use of wood first wherever possible in construction, actually had its beginnings in West Kelowna.

Yet, the District of West Kelowna is not among the 42 B.C. communities hailed for adopting a wood first policy by natural resource operations minister Steve Thomson at Thursday’s unveiling in West Kelowna, of the province’s new forest sector strategy for the province.

A policy of maximizing the use of wood in all provincially-funded buildings in B.C. was adopted by the province in 2009, recalls Mary Tracey, who was responsible for the Wood-Works project of the Canadian Wood Council, which is supported by Natural Resources Canada and Forestry Innovation Investment, a provincial government initiative.

She was born a Gorman and is one of the principals in Gorman Brothers Lumber, where Thursday’s unveiling took place.

She first conceived of the idea in 1988 and a pilot project was started. Today, it’s a North America-wide initiative and countries overseas are also looking at adopting it.

“It’s still a grassroots approach,” comments Tracey, and she credits that for its success.

Wood is a sustainable and renewable building material that sequesters carbon until it’s either burned or decomposed, so it continues to sequester carbon in a building, she noted.

She was also critical of the district’s decision to use metal painted to look like wood instead of wood for the Welcome to West Kelowna signs at either end of the municipality on the highway.

Not only is wood a sound environmental choice for building, it is also a local choice, so it has a lot going for it, she adds.

“Wood is a natural choice for the green building movement,” agreed Thomson, adding, “There’s lots of room for growth.”

Putting wood first in our construction is a top priority of the new forest sector strategy. Second is an investment in silviculture and third creating a globally-competitive, market-based operating climate.

Innovation and diversification, supporting prosperous rural forest economies and partnering with First Nations are the other spokes of the wheel from the working roundtable on forestry, and part of the strategy.

No funds to support the strategy were mentioned.

And, in fact, NDP forests critic Norm MacDonald was quick to point out, “There was absolutely nothing new. There’s no money or programs.”

He claims that the ministry’s inventory data is completely out of date due to cutbacks in the ministry budget from a high of $30 million a few years ago, to $6 million today.

He blames the loss of 35,000 jobs in the forest industry in the last few years on the government as well, and notes that 70 mills have gone down.

In addition, the government continues to permit massive raw log exports instead of processing those logs here and creating jobs, he noted.



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