This week, forestry is the focus as the Council of Forest Industries (COFI) holds its annual convention in Vancouver and there is plenty to discuss.
There is no doubt, these are challenging times for forestry with the Softwood Lumber Agreement up in the air, duties and tarriffs about to be levelled and reductions to the annual allowable cut yet to be announced.
COFI President Susan Yurkovich says while there are challenges, there are also opportunities “Our plan for the convention is to talk about the challenges we are facing, but also to talk about the great things that are happening.” Those great things she says, include the move to taller buildings made of wood, innovation , good markets, including in the U.S and the opportunities in China as well as those presented by working with First Nations.
The annual allowable cut is going to be reduced from the high rates of harvesting seen during the Mountain Pine Beetle epidemic. There are 140 communities across B.C. who rely on forestry as their economic driver. Minister of Forests, Steve Thomson has already been in discussions with the Federal Government over possible supports that could be offered to ensure the health of those communities. She say says during the transition, she would hope government would use “any of the levers” it has to support communities and workers during the transition. “It’s important that governments can work with industry and communities to make sure that as we go through this difficult time, all policy levers are employed.”
Still, with no sign of a Softwood Lumber agreement, Yurkovich remains positive “I think this is an industry that is resilient and we have faced these challenges before. It’s not great, I’m not sugar coating it, it’s not great, we wish were not in this place. We wish the U.S. would understand, as has been proven out in the courts for so many iterations in this dispute that we are not an industry that is subsidized, so it’s unfortunate we have found ourselves here, but we have found ourselves here before and we have successfully defended our interests and what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, and we have a very highly efficient industry in British Columbia that has had to be resilient as it faces these challenges.”
The convention is set to take place April 5th through the 7th.