National Forest Week is a time to reflect on the importance of forests to Canadians, not just as an economic generator but for all the recreational, environmental, wildlife and other values that help define who we are as a nation.

Here in B.C., our approach to forestry has come a long way since the industry’s early days when the primary focus was on harvesting trees.

Today, we have a much deeper understanding of the interdependent nature of all that our forests have to offer.

In fact, that commitment forms the foundation of my ministry’s recently released forest competitiveness agenda, which maps out the government’s plan to help keep B.C.’s forest sector competitive by focusing on three inter-related goals: healthy, resilient forests; a diverse, globally competitive industry and stable communities and First Nations.

The agenda contains 49 strategic actions — from expanding markets for B.C. wood products around the world, to supporting research in new wood-construction technologies and non-traditional uses of wood fibre, to investing money and resources into restoring forests impacted by wildfire and mountain pine beetle.

We’re also taking steps to enhance both the value-added and pulp and paper sectors – to encourage innovation and ensure we get the maximum value out of the timber we harvest.

B.C. is one of the world’s largest exporters of softwood lumber, a significant global producer of pulp, paper and bioenergy, and a global leader in the production of high-quality wood products from sustainably managed forests.

About 52 million hectares of B.C.’s land base are certified to internationally recognized standards for sustainable forest management, an important “green advantage” for our international customers.

We’re making strategic investments such as the $75-million B.C. Rural Dividend to help rural communities diversify their economies and BC the $85-million Forest Enhancement Society to reduce wildfire risk and create new healthy forests near communities.

There’s also a continued emphasis on growing business-to-business relationships between forestry firms and First Nations and other community-based tenure holders.

Steve Thomson is the Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations.