Minister responds to MP’s columns
In response to Alex Atamanenko’s claims in his Aug. 2 and Aug. 16 columns, I believe the readers of your newspaper deserve and need to know the facts.
While there have been changes in the provincial government’s natural resource ministries over the last year, what hasn’t changed is this government’s commitment to sustainable forest management.
Increasing demands and pressures on the land base have necessitated a more integrated approach to managing our natural resources. These progressive and pragmatic changes reinforce our commitment to forestry in this province.
Contrary to Mr. Atamanenko’s supposition, there are no plans for further layoffs in the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations.
Our forests will always be one of our most precious resources. They also represent a bright and prosperous future for our rural economies as well as our families and children. Communities and regions across the province will continue to be able to depend on the wealth generated by our forest assets for many generations to come.
My government remains firmly dedicated to good stewardship and sustainable forest management. B.C.’s commitment is plain for all to see in the 53 million hectares of the province that are independently certified to one of three internationally recognized sustainable forest management standards. This is more than any other jurisdiction on earth and puts us in an enviable position since buyers demand products from sustainably managed forests.
Despite Mr. Atamanenko’s assertion, the high degree of accountability we’ve always insisted upon still exists in the B.C. forest sector. Industry compliance with forestry legislation and regulations is consistently 90 per cent or better. We have compliance and enforcement staff ensuring that the highest standards are maintained, with the independent Forest Practices Board also keeping a close eye on forest practices.
We’re working to meet changes and evolving needs in the industry, in our marketplaces, and in our communities. Many recent actions, such as community forest agreements that give places like Keremeos and Princeton a direct say in how their local timber resources are managed, already address the recommendations in the BCGEU report referenced by Mr. Atamanenko. The future of the B.C. forest sector is one that we will be able to celebrate together with great pride.
I am sure your readers would be encouraged to know about the many recent signs and indicators that things are looking up in the forest sector. For example, innovative wood specialists Structurlam Products just opened in Okanagan Falls what is now the largest cross-laminated timber facility in western North America.
At the provincial level, more than two dozen mills have reopened over the last two years. These 27 restarts have put thousands of people back to work. This is despite the fact that the United States is mired in a prolonged economic slump, with the lowest number of housing starts in several generations. Our government has helped open new markets for B.C. lumber in Asia. We have also worked hard to develop new value-added wood products like cross-laminated timber.
Our identity as British Columbians, our economy and our way-of-life are connected to our forest resources. That will never change. Nor will our unwavering focus on a sustainable forestry industry that continues to support jobs and communities across B.can count on it!
Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations