By Robin Austin
There is no escaping the importance of the forests on the lives of the people who live in northern B.C.
From traditional forestry to a base for 21st century ecotourism, the economic importance of the forests is undeniable. They are a source of recreation, as hunters and hikers well know. And a healthy forest underpins a healthy environment – our forests are the lungs of the planet.
It’s absolutely crucial that we take steps to ensure our forests are well managed and that the industry that springs from our forests benefits the people who live in rural B.C.
Sadly, under the Liberals, we’ve taken significant steps backward for the past 10 years.
Anyone who drives through the north or Interior can see the state of forest health. The pine beetle and other pests have turned the trees from green to red and now to a pallid grey.
You might think that facing this crisis, the government would take serious steps to increase planting and other silviculture to make sure the forests are healthy.
After all, 94 per cent of all forested lands are owned by the people of B.C., under the management of the provincial government.
Amazingly, in the midst of this forest health crisis, the Liberals actually cut the amount of work being done to maintain our forests. To make matters worse, they’ve accelerated the cuts of second-growth stands by 30 years; that kind of short-sighted thinking will inevitably lead to less economic activity in the future.
It may take years to undo the damage done by Liberal inaction, but it’s vital to properly invest in planting and other forest health initiatives.
New Democrats are also calling for initiatives to ensure that we get more jobs out of the trees we’re taking out of the forests. Liberal forest policy changes are in large part responsible for the state of forestry in the northwest; we lack the ability to mill our own logs in this region, which is why so much of our timber is eventually shipped to other jurisdictions for processing.
The solution isn’t a simple ban on log exports, but it only makes sense to find ways to keep those logs at home.
Having logs processed in B.C. would grow employment substantially. For every one job created by logging, another four could be created by primary manufacturing activity such as in dimension lumber or pulp and paper. That number grows even higher when we create value-added products.
Forests are forever rooted in our lives. They underpin our economy and support our communities in ways both simple and profound. It’s our obligation to make sure they are properly managed so our children and grandchildren will benefit from all they provide.
Robin Austin is the NDP MLA for Skeena.