The B.C. government’s plan to break up large forest harvest licences and share the resource with secondary manufacturers and Indigenous communities hasn’t worked, so Crown timber rights will be redistributed by the government, Premier John Horgan has warned industry executives.
Speaking to the annual B.C. Council of Forest Industries conference Wednesday, Horgan reminded delegates of a letter he wrote to them before the same speech two years ago. That letter and speech advised the industry to set up regional “coalitions” with communities, Indigenous leaders and unions to diversify and share a timber resource depleted by mountain pine beetle and forest fires, along with a century of commercial logging.
“Unfortunately the results have been disappointing,” Horgan told the convention by video link April 8. “Although two coalitions were established, the third one is still struggling to get underway. So to bring about the change, the government will have to step in, I believe, to make sure that we provide the appropriate incentives to get the job done.”
Horgan said the details will be released in a few weeks by Forests Minister Katrine Conroy, and the “incentives” are designed to increase competitiveness and value-added wood production, without raising the ire of U.S. producers who see every move on Crown forest land as a potential subsidy.
“There’s no magical solution to the lack of fibre, but I do believe there is work we can do, business to business, to encourage companies and indigenous nations to work together,” Horgan said. “And those who do have tenure and do not want to share it, well we’ll have to step in and ensure that there is fair compensation as we move to a more equitable distribution of access to forest products so we can continue to have the diversity that we all want to see.”
COFI president Susan Yurkovich made no comment on the announcement as she moderated questions from industry players at the virtual event. She issued a statement to Black Press when asked for comment after the conference closed.
“The premier said that he wants to make space for more people to be part of the industry, recognizing that the annual allowable cut is declining, following the effects of the mountain pine beetle infestation and two years of devastating wildfires,” Yurkovich said. “There may be opportunities for companies with large tenures to help meet that goal, as the premier noted, by providing tenure and be compensated for it.”
Horgan acknowledged that there has been some progress in “business to business tenure sales” and some companies have deals to share timber with local communities and Indigenous people. Those companies also pay full market value for trees they harvest through the Crown timber stumpage system.
“The B.C. market pricing system will remain unaltered,” Horgan said. “B.C. Timber Sales will continue to do the good work that they’re doing, and I’ve also heard and I agree that you should not have to pay twice to access timber.”