Crisis unfolding in the province’s forest industry

Earlier this year, my assistant, Laurel Walton, attended a meeting about the forestry industry in Castlegar, one in a series hosted around the province by the British Columbia Government and Service Employees’ Union (BCGEU).

Earlier this year, my assistant, Laurel Walton, attended a meeting about the forestry industry in Castlegar, one in a series hosted around the province by the British Columbia Government and Service Employees’ Union (BCGEU).

They were held in four regions B.C. where the forest industry has been the number one employer for decades with local leaders in each of these regions taking part. The emphasis was placed on drawing upon the collective wisdom of the participants.

Over this column and the next, I want to focus on this important issue. Having recently read the report from the meetings, I believe it’s critical to let others know what’s happening to a significant source of British Columbian identity and livelihood. B.C. Forests in Crisis – A Community Call for Reform can be downloaded from the BCGEU’s website at . Please feel free to contact my office in Castlegar to request a copy if you are without internet access for whatever reason.

This report tells us about the current situation in our forests and some of the background to it. It also offers some specific observations, experiences and suggestions of participants. These provide a basic framework for a plan of action based on positive solutions. If the old adage is true that the first step in solving a problem is recognizing that you have it, the sooner we begin, the better.

It’s important to recall that our forest policy was deeply affected by the softwood lumber dispute which resulted in our country being on the hook for $1 billion. In the mood of those times, the provincial government dramatically changed direction, moving to a market-based system for wood product price-setting. This was to be a “results-based” system under the Forest and Range Practices Act (FRPA). Clauses requiring logs to be processed in the local area were removed, controls were cut and regulation at every level was reduced or eliminated.

At the same time, B.C.’s forestry ministry was decimated.  Apparently, more cuts are planned even though almost one-quarter of the budget has been slashed since 2008.  Forestry Service positions have been dramatically reduced, leading to the near-impossibility of enforcing what little legislation remains. The decades-old research branch was eliminated and reductions were inflicted upon the inventory program and critical administrative support.

Since information about these changes has been subjected to spin and propaganda, many people are unaware of what’s really happening in our collective backyard. The B.C. government has stated that it is reshaping the forest sector to restore B.C. advantage to our number one industry, both at home and abroad. According to the government these changes are supposed to revitalize the economy, generate jobs and spin-off benefits for communities, and provide long-term contributions to our province’s standard of living.

Unless “revitalize” has somehow come to mean decimating forests, closing dozens of mills and wiping out thousands of jobs, these predictions were not realized.

Vast expanses of interior forests were damaged by the mountain pine beetle. The value of our wood products is less than half it was in the late 1990s, inflicting devastation in people’s lives and reducing revenue to the province.

No wonder that forest communities in general feel that our interests have been sidelined. We are struggling with the ongoing tidal wave of effects from the damage that’s being done to our forests, our communities and our eco-system. Families are being hit hard and forced into separation, migration to better jobs and/or poverty.

As one Castlegar participant put it, “Forests should be the future for our kids, but right now, there’s no real future.” This worry is not groundless but, as I’ll explore next time, it doesn’t need to become reality.

Alex Atamanenko, is the Member of Parliament for B.C. Southern Interior



Just Posted

The Trail Smoke Eaters will open the 2021 season on Oct. 8 against the Cranbrook Bucks in Cranbrook, and will have their home opener the next night against the same Bucks. Photo: Jack Murray
BC Hockey League announces 54-game schedule to begin in October

Trail Smoke Eaters open season with home-and-home series versus Cranbrook Bucks

“The Spirit of Family” enhances the Beaver Valley both in the daytime and at night. Photo: Submitted
Family sculpture installed at the Fruitvale Memorial Hall

Locals are encouraged to swing by Fruitvale Memorial Hall to take a… Continue reading

In 1927, swimmers enjoyed a day in the water at the CGIT and CSET Camp in Summerland. While none of the people in this photograph have smart phones, there is some debate about whether a beach image from the United Kingdom in 1943 shows a man using a smart phone. (Photograph courtesy of the Summerland Museum)
COLUMN: The mystery of the time-travelling tourist

Was the man in a 1943 photograph checking his smart phone?

The flotation line at Gyro Park beach in East Trail, shown here during low water, is for emergency purposes only and does not delineate a safe swimming area. Photo: Trail Times file
City of Trail cautions beach users

Gyro Park beach questions should be directed to the roads superintendent at 250.364.0817.

Presently in Canada, it is illegal to be in possession of a personal stun gun. Use of this tool is only licensed to federal and provincial police officers. The personal use of stun guns by unlicensed civilians is considered to be illegal and considered under the Canadian Criminal Code to be the equivalent of a weapon. Anyone found importing or in possession of a personal stun gun and is not a licensed law enforcement officer can be prosecuted under the Canadian Criminal Code. Photo: BC RCMP
Trail man faces weapons charge after police confiscate stun gun

The incident took place on Sunday near downtown Trail

People watch a car burn during a riot following game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup final in downtown Vancouver, B.C., in this June 15, 2011 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Howe
10 years ago: Where were you during the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots?

Smashed-in storefronts, looting, garbage can fires and overturned cars some of the damage remembered today

(Black Press Media file)
Dirty money: Canadian currency the most germ-filled in the world, survey suggests

Canadian plastic currency was found to contain 209 bacterial cultures

(pixabay file shot)
B.C. ombudsperson labels youth confinement in jail ‘unsafe,’ calls for changes

Review states a maximum of 22 hours for youth, aged 12 from to 17, to be placed in solitary

Grace (left), a caribou that was born in a maternal pen north of Revelstoke, is alive and well said the province. It appears she even has a calf. Maternity pens aim to increase caribou calf survival by protecting them from predation until they are older and less vulnerable. (Contributed)
For the first time in years, caribou numbers increasing near Revelstoke

North herd growing but south herd still concerning

Eleonore Alamillo-Laberge, 6, reads a book in Ottawa on Monday, June 12, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Parents will need to fight ‘COVID learning slump’ over summer: B.C. literacy experts

Parents who play an active role in educating their children this summer can reverse the slump by nearly 80%, says Janet Mort

Kelowna General Hospital. (File photo)
COVID-19 outbreak at Kelowna General Hospital declared over

Three people tested positive for the virus — two patients and one staff — one of whom died

The border crossing on Highway 11 in Abbotsford heading south (file)
Western premiers call for clarity, timelines on international travel, reopening rules

Trudeau has called Thursday meeting, premiers say they expect to leave that meeting with a plan

The B.C. government’s vaccine booking website is busy processing second-dose appointments, with more than 76 per cent of adults having received a first dose. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C.’s COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations stable for Tuesday

108 new confirmed cases, 139 in hospital, 39 in intensive care

Most Read