The provincial government’s Interior forest sector renewal engagement period has ended and a report with its findings will be released later in the year.
The initiative was announced in the spring and from July 18 until Oct. 11 the government gathered feedback from forestry companies, First Nations and others on how forestry should be conducted in the future.
Input was received online and through several in-person sessions held in communities across the Interior. The session in Burns Lake was held on July 25. Reactions from attendees were mixed.
”A What We Heard report on feedback received through the Interior Forest Policy process is expected to be released towards the end of 2019,” as Dawn Makarowski, a spokesperson with the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development (FLNRORD) told Black Press.
The ideas received during the engagement period will be considered for how they fit into four government objectives: a globally competitive forest sector; resilient communities and workforce; reconciliation with Indigenous communities; and sustainable forest management.
“Further policy direction based on the feedback is anticipated to start in spring 2020,” Makarowski added.
Commenting on the renewal initiative while at a village meeting in Granisle on Oct. 16, Nechako Lakes MLA John Rustad said that it will be interesting to see what comes out of the feedback considering the breadth of ideas gathered.
“My concern is this: there is no question that we need some change [in forestry]. The government continues to talk about how we need value added products. we have to have a product to add value to, which means you need a primary industry. That’s what’s missing from a lot of the conversation.”
Rustad compared the possible outcome of the Interior renewal push with the Coast forestry renewal initiative, which was announced in January.
“When they did the Coastal revitalization it came out with 35 or 36 recommendations. All of them added cost. Only a couple were cost neutral to companies. If they take same approach with the Interior renewal it will only add costs and contribute to the problem, which is not good.”
“[On the Coast] to manage waste…they basically are going to charge triple stumpage for anything that is left behind. That’s going to have a significant negative consequence on the Coast. It’s going to reduce the area that companies operate in and reduce the amount of wood that’s being operated because it has driven up costs,” he said.
“I don’t know whether this revitalization process will hit the mark in terms of what I think we need to be doing for the Interior. My concern is that, given the past record it will have negative consequences given the costs structure.”
The Interior forestry industry has over the past several months faced major challenges such as permanent shutdowns of sawmills and temporary curtailments, including at the Canfor facility in Houston.
The provincial government announced a $69 million fund for workers and communities affected by the industry downturn and Quesnel, Chasm, Vavenby and Fort St. James are eligible to receive the aid.
But frustration erupted when it was revealed that $25 million of that aid would come out of the Rural Dividend Fund, leading to the suspension of the program until 2020.