Did the provincial government bungle the rollout of its old-growth deferral strategy?
Sure it did. Let’s be generous and call it a communications failure.
Do they deserve criticism for creating unnecessary stress within the industry, for giving First Nations an unrealistic timeline and not providing the resources for a response until after that timeline had elapsed and for putting stakeholders in a reactive position rather than a proactive one?
Sure they do.
But this is where we are now.
It is time to put all of that behind us and work together toward preserving the industry while still improving land-use management practices.
The town of Smithers, the Bulkley Valley and most of the towns around us were largely built on the forestry industry.
And while our economy has diversified significantly, forestry is still one of the biggest contributors to the vibrancy of this community. Nobody really wants to think about what Smithers would look like without it although that is precisely what we should be thinking about.
Last week, industry representatives had their chance to make their case to Smithers council that we need to push back against the deferral process. Nobody disagrees that we should be improving practices, but a top-down, Victoria-based province-wide approach is not going to work for the Bulkley Valley.
Valley industry representatives including loggers, mill operators, woodlot owners, the Office of the Wet’suwet’en, and the Wetzink’wa Community Forest presented a united front to council at a special Committee of the Whole meeting March 23.
The ask was for the Town of Smithers to provide a letter of support for the industry and request a reset of the deferral process to ensure local voices of all stakeholders are taken into consideration.
Council has so far been circumspect about providing that support and rightfully so. We wouldn’t want them to rush into anything without having all the pertinent information to make a decision.
They now have that information and it is council’s correct role to represent local interests to higher levels of government.
The issue will be brought back at the next regular council meeting on April 12. The council chamber gallery is once again open to the public.