Forestry was one of our province’s earliest, and most successful, industries. Today, it’s an industry that over 65,000 workers and their families rely on – an industry worth defending.
That’s why, as minister of forests, lands and natural resource operations, I was proud to announce at the end of last month “Strong Past, Bright Future”, our B.C. Liberal government’s agenda for boosting the competitiveness of our forestry sector.
B.C. has a longstanding, worldwide reputation for well-managed forests that produce top-quality wood products. In recent years, however, an uncertain market environment and the ongoing scourge of the mountain pine beetle have threatened to undermine the ability of our forest industry to compete on a global scale.
Our government’s new forestry competitiveness agenda aims to address the issue of competitiveness by presenting 49 strategic actions aimed toward furthering three overarching goals: keeping our forests healthy and resilient; ensuring our industry is diverse and globally competitive; and fostering stable communities and First Nations.
As a whole, this agenda is based on a commitment to respecting the interdependent nature of all that our forests have to offer.
The 49 strategic actions that comprise the agenda range from expanding markets for our wood products around the world, to supporting research in new wood-construction technologies and non-traditional uses of wood fibre, to investing money and resources into restoring forests impacted by wildfire and the mountain pine beetle.
Our plan also includes steps to enhance the value-added sector and the pulp and paper sectors and so to encourage innovation in these sectors and help us derive maximum use and benefit from the trees we harvest.
B.C. boasts 55 million hectares of forested lands, which accounts for a full two-thirds of our land-mass, and of these, 52 million hectares are certified to one of three internationally-recognized standards for sustainable forest management. This “green advantage” is a great asset to us when it comes to accessing international markets.
It will serve us well as we continue to maintain our status as one of the world’s largest exporters of softwood lumber, a significant global producer of pulp, paper and bioenergy, and a recognized global leader in the production of high-quality wood products from sustainably managed forests.
Our B.C. Liberal government is committed to maintaining our forestry industry and to supporting the communities that rely on it. We have already begun making strategic investments in programs such as the three-year, $75-million B.C. Rural Dividend to help rural communities diversify their economies and the $85-million Forest Enhancement Society to reduce the risk of wildfire and create new, healthy forests near communities.
Now, through our new agenda for enhancing the competitiveness of our forestry industry, we are one step closer to ensuring that forestry remains a driving force behind our economy, and that the thousands of forestry workers across the province have a future as bright as that of the forestry industry.
Steve Thomson is the Liberal MLA for Kelowna-Mission.