COLUMNS: Forestry questions for provincial election candidates

The following 10 points about ways to improve the forest economy in B.C. are taken from Ben Parfitt’s article.

The following 10 points about ways to improve the forest economy in B.C. are taken from Ben Parfitt’s article published March 13, 2017 in jobs.  Ben also discussed these same points during his meeting here in Williams Lake on March 16, 2017 along with Peter Ewart who represented Stand up for the North.

I have changed the order on the 10 points and will only present some of the background and encourage the readers to review the entire article for clarity of the issues. I have also added some of my comments that I think relate to the local situation. In my opinion the following  points should be discussed at any all-candidates forums prior to the May election.

1.) Begin an immediate phase out of all exports of raw, unprocessed logs from B.C. In 2016, nearly 6.3 million cubic meters of logs were shipped from B.C., representing 3,600 forestry jobs. I don’t know how many if any raw logs are shipped out of the Cariboo region but when local mills are closed down this may become an issue.

2.) Create new regional log markets to generate new forest industry jobs and encourage more local and regional wood product manufacturing. The creation of local log sort and processing yards has proved successful in some communities but requires the support of government at all levels as well as local mills and community organizations.

3.) Encourage more higher value forest product manufacturing through “partnership” timber sales. This concept is similar to the “bid proposal” under the former Small Business Forest Enterprise Program which would encourage value added manufacturing.

4.) Immediately launch a province wide “competition review” to determine whether current rates of corporate concentration are acceptable. Currently 10 companies control 68 percent of all allocated timber supplies in the province. In the Williams Lake TSA there are only two companies that control the majority of the licences and an estimated 90 per cent of the lumber manufacturing.

5.) Award long-term, secure, area based forest tenures  directly to First Nations. According to Parfitt the steps so far have been small and not substantial enough to provide tangible economic values to First Nations communities.

6.) Empower local communities and regions to have more direct say in forestry decisions through the creation of new regional management boards. Communities like Mission and Revelstoke that have their own Tree Farm Licences are examples of more community based control.

7.) Increase the minimum payments that companies make to provincial government for trees logged on publicly owned lands. Transfer the additional revenues to new regional forest management boards. The minimum of 25 cents per cubic meter of logs is applied to approximately one third of every log sold in B.C. (about 21.2 million cubic meters annually).

8.) Launch a rapid, comprehensive review of logging rates across BC and reset logging rates in all regions to sustainable levels.

9.) Publish a comprehensive and up to date analysis of where trees logged in the province are processed.

10.) Enact new social contract rules requiring minimum levels of manufacturing for companies holding long term logging licences.

Jim Hilton is a professional agrologist and forester who has lived and worked in the Cariboo Chilcotin for the past 40 years. Now retired, Hilton still volunteers his skills with local community forests organizations.

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