I’m sure most readers are well aware that B.C.’s central Interior has been hit very hard by the mountain pine beetle epidemic.
Over the past 13 years, the outbreak has affected about 18.1 million hectares of B.C. forests. This has created a great number of challenges for the forest industry, with many unanswered questions still lingering.
On May 16, B.C.’s Legislative Assembly appointed the Special Committee on Timber Supply to examine and make recommendations to address the mid-term timber supply loss in the central interior. MLA John Rustad chaired the committee and I, too, had the pleasure of being a member, along with a number of MLAs. We toured 15 different stops in the central Interior, holding public hearings to get feedback on this critical issue from residents, First Nations, stakeholders and local government.
Last week, Rustad released the committee’s report, Growing Fibre, Growing Value. The report outlines 22 recommendations to increase the supply and value of mid-term timber and to strengthen future forest management in B.C. The report’s recommendations focus on engaging local communities and First Nations in future plans; finding ways to grow more fibre and maximize its value by utilizing marginally economic stands and/or investing in fertilization; and increasing the type and form of area-based tenures to support enhanced levels of forest stewardship and private sector forest investment. By the end of September, the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations will present an action plan to deal with those recommendations already not addressed by the ministry. This is a critical issue for residents and families in the Cariboo-Chilcotin. Forestry has become an integral part of life for us. In 2011, our forest sector employed 53,000 people — and that’s a number that’s expected to grow. With evolving forest practices and technological advances within the sector continuing to change the game, we know B.C.’s forests have a future as a vital part of our economy. With skill and educational requirements increasing for forestry workers, we also know there will be new well-paying career options for young British Columbians. It just takes a little bit of foresight, a little bit of planning, and a lot of listening to make sure we excel in forest management practices and keep B.C. forestry jobs for B.C. families.
Donna Barnett is the Liberal MLA for the Cariboo-Chilcotin.