At their Oct. 8 meeting Smithers Town Council provided the session notes for the Smithers Interior Forest Sector Renewal public engagement session held by the Ministry of Forest, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development between July and October. (File photo)

Public engagement session focuses on forest sector renewal

Notes from a Smithers session highlight five categories local stakeholders voiced as most important

With a dark cloud of uncertainty looming over the Province’s forestry industry, at least now workers have some answers.

To address a number of questions about the industry, the Province’s Ministry of Forest, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development held a number of Interior Forest Sector Renewal public engagement sessions between July and October.

That included a Smithers session, which was held in late July.

READ MORE: Conifex’s forest tenure has been transferred to Hampton Lumber

The notes from that meeting were then forwarded to council from the ministry and presented at their Oct. 8 meeting.

They highlighted five specific categories individuals from the region voiced as most important to them.

The first, Forest Tenure and Fibre Supply, saw many make suggestions about utilizing ground fibre and hauling all wood to the roadside to decrease the amount that must be burnt.

It also reccommended pursuing incentives to utilize as much fibre as possible and developing markets for low grade fibre.

The second topic, Climate Change and Forest Carbon, focused on the environmental impact of the industry.

Many from the region suggested the Province is failing on climate change and felt the ministry needs to start educating people better.

This included the suggestion of reintroducing fire on the landscape, suggesting that natural burning helps the forest grow.

The engagement session also heard support for investment in incremental silviculture to aid in capturing carbon.

The third topic, Manufacturing Capacity and Fibre Utilization, focused on ensuring the long-term economic viability of the industry through finding more uses for wood and by increasing market diversification.

“We are a raw resource society. Putting it on industry to develop the secondary markets hasn’t worked. Government needs to step in and solve the problem and work with industry rather than just sit back and collect the taxes on industry,” a suggestion in the report read, going on to add that anything we are importing from other countries made of wood is something we can potentially be making in Canada.

Similarly, the fourth topic of Wood Products Innovation focused on utilizing innovation to foster economic stability in the industry.

The last topic was Reconciliation with Indigenous Communities.

Nothing the ministry has put significant effort into training for Indigenous communities, it suggested that rather than go into a community with a program and ask if the people are in or out, they should ask Indigenous communities what they would like to see in forestry-related training partnerships with the Province.

READ MORE: B.C. and feds engage public on caribou recovery plan

The engagement sessions were run with the intention of giving people the opportunity to provide feedback, with a specific focus on ways to maximize added-value productions as part of wood fibre manufacturing in the forestry sector.

The four main expressed goals of the sessions were to help foster a globally competitive forest sector, resilient communities and workforce, reconciliation with Indigenous communities and sustainable forest management.

“The ideas that have been received are now being considered with respect to the four government objectives shared; ideas that support one or more objective will inform options for policy reform recommended to government. Further policy direction based on the feedback is anticipated to start in spring 2020,” a release from the Province on the sessions reads.

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