Plans are in the works to rebuild the wood and secondary timber industries in British Columbia by ensuring more logs are processed in the province, said Premier John Horgan.
The forest sector revitalization plan will be done through incentives and regulation changes, he said in a speech at the annual Truck Loggers Convention on Thursday.
The policy changes include increasing penalties for late reporting of wood waste, and reducing the waste by redirecting it to pulp and paper mills.
The actions will reverse a systematic decline that has taken place in the coastal forest sector over the past two decades, he said, adding the plan will be implemented through a series of legislative, regulatory and policy changes over the next two years.
More timber can be processed here in B.C. and to accomplish that the government will reform raw log export policy, discourage high grading and curtail the export of minimally processed lumber, he said.
This will be a phased-in process and will apply to new sales through B.C. timber sales programs, he said.
“For too long the vision for our coastal forest sector … was to ship our natural resources somewhere else,” he said.
Employment on the coast has declined by 20 per cent, lumber production has dropped by 45 per cent and pulp production by 50 per cent while log exports from Crown lands have increased by nearly tenfold, impacting communities profoundly, he said.
These policies are not going to be accomplished by the stroke of a pen or a magic wand but by hard work, he said.
“To continue on the track that we are on with respect to leaving too much waste in the woods and shipping too much product offshore without any value added to it is not sensible and its not sustainable.”
He said the government can’t recreate the industry that existed 20 years ago but he was “determined” to return the natural resource wealth to the communities where it comes from.
“We will find a way through incentives and regulations, through carrots and sticks to make that happen.”
Truck Loggers Association Executive Director David Elstone said the announcement addresses growing concerns about forest management on the coast.
“The forestry industry in B.C. is a complex entity and to make changes is never easy. We’re looking forward to working with the premier and helping him understand the difference between the perception and the reality,” Elstone said.
The association has been fighting for this type of change for many years now, he said.
There’s been a steady flow of contractors leaving the industry and these policy changes will stem that tide, he said.
“Forestry is not rocket science. It’s far more complicated,” he said. “And that’s the truth.”
The B.C. Green caucus said in a statement that widespread mill closures, large-scale exports of raw logs, growing amounts of useable waste fibre left at cut locations, intensifying wildfire seasons and pest outbreaks are all challenges the government must take seriously.
“This reform should have started a decade ago, and must start with the recognition that a healthy industry is contingent on a healthy forest ecosystem,” said Sonia Furstenau, who represents Cowichan Valley in the legislature.
“We aim to develop a sustainable, second-growth sector in B.C. — one that is resilient to climate change and forest fires and can provide meaningful, rewarding employment to the local community — as a means to stop the logging of old growth trees.”