BC forest resource dependent communities are in crisis!
Over the last 45 years the BC Government has focused on assisting the forest sector in building economic wealth for the companies and the BC public. The applied model worked well for the first 30 years. However, changes have occurred within the BC forest sector involving:
- Removal of commitments to operate mills as part of issuing timber tenures
- Consolidation of the industry resulting in fewer companies
- Change in corporate shareholder composition resulting frequently in a focus on short-term economics versus long-term forest stewardship
- Canada-US Softwood Lumber Agreement constraining changes to Government policy
- Decline in timber supply due to transition from old growth to second growth forest stands on the coast and the impacts of the Mountain Pine Beetle epidemic in the interior
The combination of these influences has resulted in serious deterioration and in some cases loss of the connection between the forest companies and the communities. This has created a great deal of uncertainty in the communities relative to their future economic viability. The resiliency of the 140 forest-dependent communities is critical to BC. The new forest industry must be guided by the overall Government objective to assist in the creation of resilient communities through community economic diversification. There are two components of community diversification:
- Diversification in the businesses that utilize the non-timber forest resources
- Diversification in the businesses that utilize the timber resource
The forest sector is responding to the changes by taking steps to include non-traditional wood products (e.g., bio-chemicals, bio-energy, etc.) into their business. However, communities need to take leadership in partnership with the forest industry in designing their local forest sector.
A strategic approach to addressing the topic is presented in An approach to community diversification