The forest industry, much like the forests we rely on, is in a perpetual state of transition. Markets swing, customer demands shift, new research and experience informs, practices and technology evolve, climate patterns change, and people, politics and the law transform. This myriad of factors means the industry is in a perpetual state of adaptation. Innovation is a necessity – not a luxury.
Some transitions are bigger than others. Most people recognize that the pine beetle epidemic is driving extraordinary changes to the structure, size and competitiveness of the Interior forest sector. As a result, the Interior sector is embarking on a profound rationalization. What is less readily apparent is that the Coastal forest sector is facing a transition of similar scope and size. Several factors contribute to this transition.
The forest industry has been operating on the Coast for over a hundred years, evolving from European style sustained yield management to a made-in-BC system that requires we manage for a full range of values from aquatic to biodiversity to scenic, wildlife and cultural. The law requires the regeneration and regrowth of the forests we harvest. Our practices and regulatory framework reflect leading-edge research and a deep stewardship ethos.
Today, we have a science-based, world-class, sustainable forest management system. This has yielded land-use planning and land use decisions that now protect over 3.5 million hectares of natural, undisturbed coastal forest ecosystems. Further, we are on the cusp of adding another half million hectares when the final implementation of the Great Bear Rainforest land use plan is complete. Together, these protected areas represent an area significantly larger than the 2.5 million hectares managed under our world-class, sustainable management system. This resulting diverse array of forest ecosystems and management regimes provide a strong foundation for addressing climate change by providing for both forest conservation and management.
Arriving at this model required an evolution of how we manage our forests. It gave us a platform to meet the need for balance between environmental protection, social goods and services, economic development and the associated jobs and revenues. This evolution is driving a transition from harvesting available, natural forests to second and third growth forests over the next two to three decades.
We are in a state of transition with a future full of opportunity. Our intention going forward is to ensure that the hard-won balance between capturing the opportunities needed for a robust forest sector and a high level of environmental integrity remain and grow.
Done right, we can realize the full AAC, maximize the midterm timber supply, create a solid platform for investment in new technologies and in the forest – all the while still managing ecosystems in a responsible and sustainable manner. Done right, we can realize the government’s vision for jobs, revenue and healthy communities. Done right, we will continue to provide energy-efficient forest products, attract people to the industry and create employment, revenue and benefits for First Nations.
The choices we make today count. And if we clearly articulate our path, relentlessly drive competitiveness and create the hosting conditions for continued investment, collaboration, research and innovation, the benefits will be enjoyed by all of us today and in the generations to come.