OPINION: We need a “working forest”

Cariboo Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett

Last week the government issued its third provincial budget.

Aside from tax increases on soda pop and Netflix, most people are unaware of what was contained in the budget because it was largely overshadowed by a thousand forestry workers who showed up on the front lawn of the Legislature.

Upset that the budget didn’t contain anything to help the forest industry in what is widely recognized as the worst crisis in over 40 years, grass-roots members of the B.C. Forestry Alliance wanted to demonstrate that working people are truly suffering.

Many were part of the 3,000 workers and contractors devastated by the nearly eight-month-long strike at Western Forest Products located on Vancouver Island and along the coast.

The NDP refused to intervene in what is now acknowledged as the longest strike in the history of forestry.

People lost their trucks, lost their homes and lost their marriages. All of this could have been prevented if the NDP granted the Alliance’s request to establish a “working forest” in British Columbia.

They are not asking for much, other than preserving the current land base that is set aside for harvesting.

But the NDP are throwing-up roadblocks that would severely restrict the industry and make it far less profitable through their current regional reviews.

According to Susan Yurkovich, head of the BC Council of Forest Industries, “We need to invest in and protect the working-forest land base. We should decide on the size of the working-forest land base, and then we should lock it in.”

Increasing exclusions for recreation, old-growth preservation and wildlife habitat conservation, such as the caribou recovery announcement made last week, leaves the forest industry with a shrinking piece of the pie.

So in an era with increasing costs and falling lumber prices, the NDP has to choose between establishing a working forest or losing an entire industry altogether.

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