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VICTORIA – Government is introducing a comprehensive forestry revitalization plan that will reverse the decline of the province’s most important industry by opening up new opportunities for British Columbians, Forests Minister Michael de Jong said today.
“British Columbia has world-class forests and world-class forest practices, but some provincial regulations have cost us dearly over the past decade,” said de Jong. “As part of our heartlands economic strategy, we’re revitalizing our number 1 industry because that is critical to creating new jobs and supporting the public services we all count on.”
The forest sector has been hard hit by changing global market conditions and outdated provincial regulations. In the last five years alone, 13,000 forest workers have lost their jobs, 27 mills have closed permanently, and revenue contributions to the Crown have declined by one-third.
The forestry revitalization plan is aimed at:
· Creating new forest sector opportunities.
· Opening up markets for B.C. forest products.
· Ensuring sustainable forest practices.
The plan will open up forest sector opportunities for new entrepreneurs and value-added manufacturers, remove barriers to regional job creation, and open up new partnerships with First Nations.
To create these new opportunities, government will reallocate 20 per cent of logging rights from major licensees, which will be added to what is already available on the open market. As a result of these and other changes, up to 45 per cent of the province’s total harvest will eventually be available through the open market, making more timber available for First Nations, community forests, woodlots, the value-added sector and new entrepreneurs.
One-time funding of $275 million has been set aside for the transition from the old to the new, stronger forest economy. Forest companies will be fairly compensated for the legal harvesting rights removed from their allowable annual cuts; $200 million has been allocated for this purpose. Forest workers and contractors will have access to a $75-million trust fund for transition assistance.
Barriers to regional job creation will be removed by allowing the province’s 600 mills to obtain B.C. timber no matter where it was logged.
The share of the province’s allowable annual cut available to First Nations will be more than doubled, from about three to about eight per cent, roughly equivalent to the proportion of First Nations people in the rural population. The province will also share $95 million in forest revenues with First Nations over the next three years.
Government will also:
· Adjust cut control regulations so companies can decide when to log, based on market conditions, without being penalized for not cutting wood. (Government will continue to limit how much wood can be cut by a licence holder in a given period, ensuring long-term sustainability of the public’s forest resources.)
· Provide a new timber pricing system that will give British Columbians fair value for the use of their public forests.
To open up markets for B.C. forest products, the forestry revitalization plan will focus on diversifying the province’s forest industry to be globally competitive, selling products to new markets, and marketing B.C. forestry practices to the world.
Forest tenure holders will be able to subdivide or transfer all or part of their cutting rights to other operators in B.C. without penalty, allowing the industry to diversify. Government will maintain checks to ensure competition and sound forest management.
Government is applying one per cent of all direct forest revenues to the global marketing of B.C.’s world-class forest practices and products. This will open up new markets in China and Japan.
Sustainable forest practices will be ensured by leading the world with a results-based forest practices code and independent certification, leading the world in reforestation, and managing for biodiversity and other values.
Government’s new Forest and Range Practices Act will maintain high environmental standards while shifting the focus from paperwork to on-the-ground results. Companies must outline how they will meet these standards, and a team of specialized staff at the Ministry of Forests will conduct thousands of inspections each year.
B.C. is already a North American leader in forest management. Most major firms have independent certification or are pursuing it. More than five billion trees had been planted in the province by May 2002: every tree harvested is replaced. More than 12 per cent of B.C.’s land has been set aside in parks or protected areas, including about four million hectares of old growth.
“The forestry revitalization plan is a made-in-B.C. solution that will open up new opportunities for entrepreneurs, remanufacturers, First Nations, communities and the province as a whole,” said de Jong. “At the same time, we’re ensuring that the public receives fair value for its forest resources today, and that those resources are sustainably managed for the future with leading-edge practices. With these changes, we will enjoy a new, stronger forest economy – and so will our children and grandchildren.”
The Forestry Revitalization Plan and backgrounders are available online at www.for.gov.bc.ca/mof/plan.