The beginning of a new year brings with it the persistent and eternal optimism in all of us working and involved in our forest sector. While we all ponder the ongoing challenges and how to solve them, we’re equally devoting our thoughts to the opportunities available on the short- and long-term horizons to move businesses and the sector forward.
In these tumultuous times, what and where are such opportunities?
Let’s start with managing for less wildfire risk. Frankly, our loggers are the best in the world so when it comes down to adopting innovative harvesting techniques and the systems needed to reduce wildfire risks and the magnitude of fires, it’s a given that we can deliver.
For carbon sequestration, active management and harvesting of the forest resource is the pathway to maximizing carbon capture of the forests. In fact, other countries have increased harvest levels while also increasing their overall carbon stocks.Advertisement
There is a need for a whole lot of housing in our country and wood is the core material to deliver on the supplies needed to fulfill that challenge. Whether the movement is towards more CLT and engineered type materials or our current construction methods, what other material is better suited for building in terms of climate change, sustainability, certifiable forest practices, and energy efficiency?
And that’s only the beginning of the opportunities. Research abounds delving into all the possibilities and new frontiers that wood can offer such as sustainable and recyclable packaging, biomass energy, technically advanced materials down to the nano-technology levels, and exotic new uses like wind turbine towers of wood or wooden satellites. The list can go on and on.
The real question is whether the leadership is in place to capitalize on this forest of opportunities.
Over the decades, our forests and their management have been subject to the proverbial pendulum of management regimes swaying to the extremes of protection versus maximizing returns. Today’s policy and legislation pendulum (at least in BC) swings a decided proclivity towards protectionism, with their actions at odds with government’s professed promises of encouraging a globally vibrant forest sector, chockablock of innovation, certainty, and more jobs.
And all of this is meant to occur while the annual harvest rockets downwards, uncertainty escalates, and legislative changes add new levels of complexity with consequential negative impacts on investor confidence. Additionally, each day sees the onslaught of articles and editorials professing the need by some to stop all harvesting, as if that will be the saviour towards climate change and other woes. Unfortunately, many in leadership positions responsible for crafting legislation or reporting news buy into these often-rhetorical assertions far too readily.
Many recent news stories have also been about the general concern with the overall health of the Canadian economy, our competitive position, government spending/revenues/deficits, and our diminishing gross domestic product per household. While some would consider it oversimplistic, what has always mattered and continues to matter for our economic well-being is the health of our resource sectors and the first jobs they create. The forest sector is one of those key resource sectors that create the jobs that create the wealth from our resources that fuel the support and service sectors and the jobs they in turn create. These jobs fuel the core government revenues needed to support the social and welfare programs we all support and need.
Our forest sector can continue to deliver upon the opportunities in front of us. The ingredients needed are not that complex once boiled down: a pragmatic and scientific approach to the future versus dogmatic alarmist rhetoric; a clear and consistent framework of policy and legislation; an invigorated investment climate; a renewed globally competitive sector; and a collective vision endorsed and supported by all involved.
These tasks in front of us all in the forest sector are decidedly challenging in today’s environment but it is also incumbent upon us to do our job of helping our citizens better understand our sector, better inform decision-makers, implementing new levels of innovation, and seizing our forest of opportunities.
Bob Brash, RPF, is the executive director of the Truck Loggers Association in B.C.
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