In 2011 over 53,000 workers were employed in the British Columbia forest sector. Although it's an impressive amount, the provincial government is always looking for ways to improve this number.
The recent forest sector strategy, released under the BC Jobs Plan, takes a look at the six main ways the government can support forestry employment across the province.
The strategy, entitled "Our Natural Advantage: Forest Sector Strategy for British Columbia" was released on April 12, 2012 and addresses the priorities identified by the Working Roundtable on Forestry. It builds on the roundtable's vision for a vibrant, globally competitive forest products industry by sharpening the focus on:
- The commitment to using wood first.
- Growing trees, sequestering carbon, and ensuring land is available to produce a range of forest products.
- Creating a globally competitive, market-based operating climate.
- Embracing innovation and diversification.
- Supporting prosperous rural forest economies.
- First Nations becoming partners in forestry.
"Our forests and timber resources provide a valuable natural advantage to increase the momentum behind Canada Starts Here: The B.C. Jobs Plan," says Steve Thomson, Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations. "This new forest sector strategy also builds on the Working Roundtable on Forestry and will enable job creation, open new markets, and prepare us for the opportunities of tomorrow."
On average, B.C. plants 200 million trees each year. Last year the province exported 22.7 million cubic metres of lumber (up nine per cent over the previous year). Total forest product exports by BC totalled $9.95 billion in 2011.
"We're pleased to see the provincial government has developed a strategy that will fully leverage the strengths of the B.C. forest sector. It builds on our reputation for sustainability, and encourages competitiveness, investment and innovation - which are key to building the sector," says John Allan, president and CEO, Council of Forest Industries.
Some of the actions that make up the strategy include:
- B.C. will capture larger shares of the non-residential and multi-family housing construction sectors in the U.S. The goal is to export 400 million board feet of lumber to the U.S. non-residential market in 2012/13.
- Expand six-storey wood frame construction to non-residential applications.
- Construction of the Wood Innovation and Design Centre in Prince George to stand as a wood first icon and centre of excellence for product development.
- Ongoing investment in reforestation and silviculture.
- Innovative silviculture partnerships and forest carbon restoration projects. A request for proposals was issued in January 2012 to reforest 1,000 hectares of
- Crown land damaged by mountain pine beetle and wildfire.
- High use of select tree seed (from orchards) in Crown land reforestation.
- Implementation of landscape fire management planning. This includes targeted harvesting to create firebreaks, removal of hazardous fuels, and prescribed burning to support healthy ecosystems.
Stay Globally Competitive
- The Expert Panel on Tax will complete its formal review of B.C.'s tax competitiveness by Aug. 31, 2012.
- The regulatory framework for forest resources will be improved. This includes market sensitivity of the timber pricing system, streamlining processes, and enhancing client-centred service.
- BC Timber Sales opportunities. Innovative, area-based timber sales will minimize waste and get as much value as possible from timber harvest sites.
- FibreConnections BC and WoodSource BC will improve investors' access to wood fibre.
- Log export policies are being reviewed.
- Implement the recommendations of the MLA Bio-Economy Committee.
- Continued funding for FPInnovations to identify and demonstrate opportunities to lower investment barriers, and increase the successful adoption of bio-products and services.
- Increased utilization of coastal hemlock and balsam fir trees for new product uses such as decking and sound abatement fencing.
- Genomics research to increase forest resiliency in response to changing climate and environmental conditions.
- Research to create lignin (chemical compound found in woody biomass) with different consistencies and properties to diversify the range of pulp products offered by B.C.
- Increase softwood exports to China by 20 per cent in 2012/13.
- Increase exports to Japan by 10 per cent in 2012/13 with lumber for earthquake and tsunami reconstruction as well as larger public and institutional building projects.
- Capitalize on housing trend in South Korea for healthier, more energy-efficient homes.
- Heighten demand in India for B.C. softwood compared to tropical hardwood products.
Support Rural Forest Economies
- Continue to create community forest agreement opportunities.
- Continue to expand of the woodlot program.
- Create new types of forest tenures for smaller operators to harvest roadside debris left behind by primary harvesters.
- Develop innovative strategies to deal with worker recruitment and retention challenges.
First Nations Forestry
- Thirteen new Forest Tenure Opportunity Agreements expected to be reached in 2012/13.
- Up to eight new First Nations Woodland Licences awarded in 2012/13.
- Twenty-two more revenue-sharing agreements expected in 2012/13.
Learn more about Our Natural Advantage: Forest Sector Strategy for British Columbia at www.for.gov.bc.ca/mof/forestsectorstrategy.
What do you think needs to be done to attract and retain young, skilled workers in the forest sector? The BC government invites people to share their ideas at www.bcjobsplan.ca. The discussion begins Thursday, April 26.