The Campbell River Chamber of Commerce has presented the provincial government with a list of recommendations for how to address some of the challenges facing the forestry industry.
The letter from the chamber was submitted to the BC Chamber Policy Review Board this past February and was approved at the BC Chamber Annual General Meeting in May.
The document, titled, “Creation of a Stable and Prosperous Forest Industry,” says that the provincial forestry industry – one of the key economic drivers of this region, in particular – is struggling because too much land is being taken away from the timber harvesting land base (THLB) for the creation of “Protected Areas and Conservancies.”
“In addition there has been a tendency by large forest licensees to take profits earned in Canada (B.C. in particular) and use them to purchase a larger share of the industry in the U.S. south where they have more certainty in the land base. This is detrimental to B.C. communities and needs to be addressed moving forward to ensure small town communities built around the Forest Industry survive far into the future.”
The chamber’s letter also says that while there is currently a proposed program called the BC Rural Dividend initiative, which will provide $25 million per year for three years to small communities around the province for things like workforce and business sector development, that money needs to be better targeted to help areas facing “these historic changes and increased to ensure there is a safety net in place to help the survival of affected communities.”
The recommendations made to the government include taking steps to “halt the erosion of the Timber Harvesting Land base by making impacts on the timber harvesting land base area mandatory consideration, in the approval process on any further creation of parks and protected areas or other similar initiatives,” and to ensure there is sufficient funding and consultation with industry stakeholders in place to complete the cumulative effects work that is currently underway in the province, so a forest harvesting land base can be ensured which will allow the industry and communities to prosper into the future.”
They also recommend there be a transition plan produced for communities effected by damage done by the mountain pine beetle and that the government continues to work with First Nations on land claims and Rights and Title cases.
They would also like to see more incentives provided to encourage new people to get into the industry, as the cumulative effects of the changing landscape in the forestry industry, the chamber’s letter says, “have greatly diminished business certainty, resulting in decreased investment and a lack of interest from younger generations to get involved in the industry as a career. Demographically the industry is in the same struggle as many other cornerstone industries, which helped to grow the provincial economy into what it is today.”