New initiative to renew B.C.’s Interior forestry industry

By Mandy Vocke
April 5, 2019 - 2:33pm Updated: April 5, 2019 - 3:26pm

PRINCE GEORGE — The British Columbia government is launching a regionally driven renewal of the province’s Interior forest industry. It aims to develop a competitive and sustainable future for forest companies, workers and communities.

Premier John Horgan announced the renewal initiative during a speech to the Council of Forest Industries (COFI) and says he already has written to the chief executives of Interior forest companies. He's inviting them to lead the process with government and to partner with labour leaders, First Nations and communities to chart a sustainable path forward. Individual strategy discussions will be carried out in each timber supply area (TSA) while focusing on the entire Interior forest industry. 

“This will be a local process, led by those who are committed to the future of forestry in their regions, and who are willing to do the tough work to create a shared vision of a prosperous, competitive industry,” Premier Horgan says. “We will expect the results to maximize the potential of the existing timber supply, maintain jobs, incorporate First Nations’ interests, and address the economic, cultural, recreational and other uses of B.C.’s land base.”

The renewal strategy comes just months after the government launched a similar initiative for the coastal forest industry. The Interior industry has faced numerous setbacks. There were years of enhanced cut levels when the pine beetle epidemic was at its peak. The industry is now facing significantly reduced timber supply and record wildfire seasons, as well as lower prices for Western spruce, fir and pine lumber. The initiative will focus specifically on ways to increase value-added production from a reduced wood fibre supply.

“This process will empower regions to maintain forest-industry competitiveness within a framework that is locally led and collaboratively driven, leading to a secure future for forest-dependent communities by building, creating and innovating using B.C. wood,” says Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, Doug Donaldson.

The government announced earlier this year it was changing the building code to allow the construction of wood buildings up to 12 storeys, using fire-resistant engineered wood to help increase market demand for value-added production. 

The Premier announced that the government is taking the next major step by requiring engineered wood to be used wherever possible for the construction of two major projects:

  1. The new Royal BC Museum in Victoria and
  2. The new St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver

“This is the beginning of the change our forest industry needs,” Horgan says. “We have committed $20 billion in public infrastructure over the next three years– schools, housing, hospitals and more. I have directed that all these projects consider the use of engineered wood as a primary building material, whenever and wherever possible.”

Horgan’s letter to the B.C. Interior forest sector can be found here.

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