Yurkovich: We need a balanced approach to forest policy in B.C.

April 28, 2022

By: The Working Forest Staff

VANCOUVER SUN — There is a lot happening in the world today. People are worried about climate change, conflict, food and energy security, and rising costs.

Susan Yurkovich is the president and CEO of the B.C. Council of Forest Industries, representing the majority of forest products manufacturers in the province.

Discussions are increasingly becoming polarized, whether they are about the pandemic, the state of society, or what industries can sustainably deliver jobs and economic growth. The important dialogue that is underway across B.C. about forestry is also not immune to divisive rhetoric.

Amidst these unsettling times, it’s often hard to see the path forward or what role we can play as workers, communities, business and labour leaders, public servants and elected officials to set us on the right course.

While we don’t have all the answers, what is clear to us at the B.C. Council of Forest Industries is that there are lots of good people out there with big ideas on how to build a strong economy and brighter future for our planet, where B.C.’s globally leading sustainable forestry practices and low-carbon forest products can play an outsized role.

The B.C. government is advancing an economic plan, Clean B.C., and a forest policy modernization process aimed at clean, inclusive growth and to help advance reconciliation. These policy initiatives are well-intentioned, but to achieve these outcomes, we need to implement them in a way that ensures B.C. can compete globally.

Indigenous peoples within whose traditional territories forestry activities take place are at the heart of driving discussion on the future. They play integral roles as stewards of the land, owners, partners and employees, and this will increase as shared decision-making is strengthened with the implementation of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act.

The 100,000 workers that make B.C.’s forest sector great also have an important voice in the conversation — the tree planters, foresters, biologists, drone makers and more, who are proud to take care of forests. They are a major part of why more than 98 per cent of B.C. forests have been certified by one or more of the following globally recognized sustainable forest management standards (CSA, FSC and SFI) used in Canada. They are making products that help fight climate change because, as stated by the International Panel on Climate Change, using sustainable, carbon-storing wood in construction instead of concrete or steel can lower emissions. These workers are also a critical part of a sector that is helping pay for hospitals, teachers and affordable housing in their communities, and they are essential in the discussion about the path forward. So, too, are the truck drivers and rail and port workers who move our products to customers in over 100 countries. 

And we can’t forget the next generation — forestry, biology and engineering students at colleges and universities such as BCIT, UBC, UNBC, and SFU. These students care about the future and want to build on B.C.’s leadership in sustainable forestry by choosing careers in a sector that is driving solutions.

So, how can we leverage the power of people and good ideas to deliver better outcomes for B.C. and the world? As we gather in Vancouver for the 2022 COFI Convention, some food for thought:

First, we need a balanced approach to forest policy. We value B.C.’s conservation leadership. We also value forests for the jobs, recreational and cultural uses they represent. That is why we need policy approaches informed by science, traditional knowledge and having everyone at the table.

Second, companies in the lumber or manufacturing business, whether big or small or new entrants or established players, need predictable access to fibre at a reasonable cost. Clear rules will encourage those looking to invest.

Third, we need to acknowledge forest products as tools to fight climate challenges. They are a better choice as they store carbon and are renewable. B.C.’s mass-timber plan is a start, but other value-added opportunities are possible if the sector as a whole is supported by a predictable business climate.

Finally, partnership is key. We have much more in common than not, and no government, labour union, Indigenous nation, community or company can do this alone. We must work together.

We’ve got the people, the product and the know-how to make a difference, so let’s roll up our sleeves and create the conditions where B.C.’s forest products industry can thrive and continue to deliver benefits for the province and the planet.

 See more HERE.


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