Living in the Cariboo, they are a part of our natural landscape, they contribute to our local economy, and they provide numerous recreation opportunities. I am talking about, of course — our forests. I wanted to take the opportunity to recognize National Forest Week because of the many contributions forests make to the Cariboo, and British Columbia.
This year, the theme for National Forest Week is Forests for People and I find that very appropriate given the relationship between the people of B.C. and our forests. Whether it’s jobs that support local families, or revenue contributing to our gross domestic product, there are so many benefits and opportunities that our forests provide. As the forest sector recovers, and with the help of a number of mills reopening, we’ve seen hundreds of workers back on the job, which is strengthening northern and rural communities.
Not only that, but log exports are increasing as well. The trade mission by Minister Pat Bell to China has seen the demand for B.C. lumber climb to unprecedented levels. There are mills in British Columbia working around the clock to provide wood products for China, which recently surpassed the United States as B.C.’s largest softwood lumber export partner.
Just this May, B.C. lumber shipments to China were valued at $122 million compared to the U.S. at $119 million. May was a record-breaking month for B.C. softwood lumber exports to China with 746,000 cubic metres exported. China now represents a huge part of B.C.’s future and presents so many opportunities moving forward. So we have 55,000 jobs, $7.3 billion towards B.C.’s GDP, and 50 communities benefitting from a revitalized forest industry. But that’s not all our forests provide the people of British Columbia.
If you’re a wildlife enthusiast, enjoy visiting heritage sites, or just enjoy spending time outdoors, this is where the measurable contributions of B.C.’s forests are found.
So take the time this week to reflect on how important B.C. forests are to all of us and what they do for our families. Chances are they are a bigger part of your life than you might think.
Donna Barnett is the Liberal MLA for the Cariboo-Chilcotin.