CBC NEWS — Hundreds of forestry workers descended on the B.C. Legislature Tuesday afternoon in a rally to support the struggling sector.

“The forestry sector has been in a downturn all across the province,” said organizer Carl Sweet. “The economy sector on Vancouver Island around the old-growth logging will slowly deteriorate until there’s not much left.”

Sweet said many workers are concerned the province’s Old Growth Strategic Review, which is currently underway, might decrease available land for timber harvest.

He and others said they are in Victoria to deliver a petition to the B.C. government.

“That petition is an ask for the government to start protecting the harvestable land base for the future,” said Sweet.

“We just had an eight-month strike on Vancouver Island … and it’s kind of giving us a glimpse into the future of what it could potentially be like if we continue to lose our harvestable land base.

“Right now in coastal B.C. we only harvest on 30 percent of the land base. The other 70 per cent is either protected, restricted … or uneconomical for harvesting. With this petition and rally, we’re asking to maintain that 30 percent.”

Sweet said the petition has garnered 8,000 signatures in less than two months.

“I think people are misinformed about the impacts of logging. There’s a lot of professional foresters, biologists — everyone that looks after the forest industry — they’re doing everything they can to ensure it’s sustainable.”

B.C. Forest Minister Doug Donaldson acknowledged loggers’ concerns with the Old Growth Strategic Review and promised they’d be consulted.

“I commit today that before any recommendations from that process are implemented, I will be going out to communities…[and] rural areas to gather input on any … recommendations that come from that report,” he said.

Finance Ministry budget numbers show forest revenues were down 11 percent last year and projected harvest volumes of 46 million cubic metres are the lowest in years.

Thousands of forestry workers have lost their jobs, as mills close across the province.

Last week, after more than seven months on the picket lines, a tentative deal between Western Forest Products and the United Steelworkers was ratified by union members.

It meant more than 3,000 people can get back to work, although it is unclear when employees will be back on the job at six mills owned by WFP on Vancouver Island.

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