Looking toward the future of the BC forest industry
By Susan Yurkovich
Dec. 12, 2017 - This fall, B.C.’s forest sector released a new economic study that highlights the fact that the B.C. forest industry continues to be a cornerstone of the provincial economy and a significant economic contributor to communities around the province.
By Susan Yurkovich
The study conducted by PwC shows that B.C.’s forest industry is critically important to families and communities across B.C. In fact, 140 communities depend on the forest industry through their mills, manufacturing facilities, forestry and logging operations. Employment-wise, last year, forestry generated one out of every 17 jobs in the province, making it one of B.C.’s largest employers – that’s more than 140,000 total jobs that generate $8.6 billion in wages to workers.
Forestry was an equally important revenue generator for government, providing municipal, provincial and federal governments with $4.1 billion in payments that include stumpage, taxes and fees. The forest industry also contributed $12.9 billion to the provincial GDP with $33 billion in total output. Without question, the province and its ability to make ongoing needed investments in health, education, infrastructure and innovation depends on the financial health of the forestry sector.
Renewable B.C. wood is also in demand around the world with B.C. forest companies exporting $13.7 billion worth of forest products to more than 100 countries in 2016, accounting for 34 per cent of all provincial exports. The U.S. and its residential construction industry was the top destination for B.C. forest exports, accounting for 53 per cent of the industry’s exports, followed by China at 24 per cent of exports and Japan at nine per cent. The B.C. forest industry continues to work hard alongside the provincial and federal governments to further diversify our products and overseas markets with Korea, Taiwan and India growing as trade partners.
Key to B.C. successfully opening overseas markets is our reputation as a world leader in sustainable forestry. Our industry is deeply committed to preserving the healthy forests that are a part of our shared ecological and natural heritage. Canada has more third party certified forest than any other nation in the world, with most of B.C.’s forested land certified, meaning we meet internationally recognized criteria for environmental management systems. With that commitment, we planted 259 million seedlings in 2016 alone, and harvested less than one per cent of the timber land each year.
While the findings of the report show that forestry continues to be a key driver of the B.C. economy, our industry is also facing challenges. The lingering impacts of the Mountain Pine Beetle infestation, decreasing timber supply, increased constraints on the land base and the ongoing softwood lumber dispute have been further exacerbated by the devastating wildfires in B.C.’s interior this past summer.
We are working with the provincial government and communities to fully understand the impact of the wildfires, expedite the salvage of timber, and ensure access to fibre so that our operations can continue to run. We also need to work with the provincial government to find ways to reduce operating costs in B.C., improve access to harvestable timber, increase the annual allowable cut, and reduce constraints on the land base, so we can help B.C. forest companies better compete in the global marketplace. Through a determined and collaborative approach, we can address these challenges and continue to have a vibrant forest industry in B.C.
B.C. forestry companies invested $650 million in new capital expenditures in 2016, in addition to the significant amount spent annually on repair and rehabilitation. That level of investment is expected to continue annually over the next five to 10 years. We will continue to innovate and develop new products – including taller wood buildings – because building with wood helps us all reduce our collective carbon footprint.
For as long as we’ve been a province, B.C.’s forest sector, and the families and communities across our province who are a part of it, have contributed immeasurably to our quality of life in British Columbia. As an industry, we look forward to continuing to grow, invest and innovate, and continuing to be an economic engine for families, communities and the province for generations to come.
Susan Yurkovich is president and CEO of BC Council of Forest Industries.