Vancouver, B.C. – Susan Yurkovich, President and CEO of the BC Council of Forest Industries, made the following statement with respect to today’s announcement by the BC Government detailing its intention to defer 2.6 million hectares of old growth across British Columbia.
“Today, the Province has indicated it will be proceeding with a process to defer a further 2.6 million hectares of forests in BC. If fully implemented, this move will have a profound and devastating impact on people, families and communities across the province.”
“While we are still digesting the details, our initial analysis indicates that these deferrals would result in the closure of between 14 and 20 sawmills in BC, along with two pulp mills and an undetermined number of value-added manufacturing facilities. This represents approximately 18,000 good, family-supporting jobs lost, along with over $400 million in lost revenues to government each year – revenues that help pay for healthcare, education and other services British Columbians count on.”
Government’s announcement today is based on recommendations received from a panel of advisors appointed earlier this year, four of five of whom have ties to environmental organizations, including the Sierra Club and West Coast Environmental Law.
“It is unfortunate that the panel has advanced their recommendations without due consideration for the impacts on the people and communities who depend on the forest, including a small portion of old growth, for their livelihoods.
It’s particularly troubling that these deferrals come on the heels of a pandemic that has challenged us all and where the forest industry has been a bright light. We kept people working safely and continued to deliver more than $4 billion in revenues to government over the last year which has helped put our province in a financial position better than most. Now the key industry that has and can continue to contribute to our resilience is being devastated.
At a time when the world is looking to low-carbon forest products from sustainably managed forests to help address the climate challenge we all face, it is disappointing that today’s announcement ignores the fact that BC is already a conservation leader and recognized globally for its certified sustainable forest practices and products.
Old growth is an important part of our provincial ecosystem and, as demonstrated by both the panel and a recent independent study of forest inventory commissioned by COFI, BC has about 11.4 million hectares of old forests, the majority of which – over 75 percent – is already protected or is outside the timber harvesting land base. This will ensure that old forests are abundant in our province for generations to come.
Small, medium, large, family-owned and Indigenous-owned forestry companies, contractors, suppliers and workers are extremely concerned that the Province is moving in this direction. We continue to believe we can create a positive path forward that supports conservation, creates the climate-friendly products the world wants, and supports jobs and strong communities throughout BC.
Our strong hope is that the Province will commit to a fact-based, balanced and inclusive approach, including meaningful engagement with Indigenous Nations, forest professionals and other local experts, before proceeding with decisions that could irreparably harm workers, companies and communities across our province.”
About the BC Council of Forest Industries
The BC Council of Forest Industries (COFI) represents the majority of lumber, pulp and paper, and manufactured wood producers across the province – an industry that remains a cornerstone of the economy, supporting good jobs and a better quality of life for British Columbians.
COFI advocates for the interests of its members and works with government, First Nations, communities, labour and other partners to promote a healthy, diversified and sustainable forest industry that benefits people and families across BC.