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Community Gathers to Share Ideas and Solutions on the Future of Our Forests

A full house gathered at the Central Cariboo Arts Centre in Williams Lake Thursday evening to share their ideas and solutions for the future of our forests.

Resource Policy Analyst with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Ben Parfitt says it was amazing to see such great turnout.

“Not just in numbers, but the diversity of people. I think we heard a lot from a lot of different people-people from the major sawmills in town to independent loggers to ranchers and to people who clearly felt very passionate about the environment. I think it was just a great turnout.”

Ideas and solutions shared at the meeting from community members ranged from using stumps which are either burned or left untouched for energy, to creating community-focused jobs on the remanufacturing of lumber.

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This was the fourth community meeting organized through Stand UP through the North Committee.

Parfitt says although each community they’ve been in has unique concerns-wood leaving Mackenzie, to other communities seeing wood coming in and being concerned about the sustainability of their own forests, the overall theme is that everyone is concerned about the health of their forests and the changes that they’ve seen with industry with the loss of jobs and community opportunities.

“100 Mile lost a fiber plant. They’ve converted to a one-line mill and they’re still getting the same amount of logs. I”m talking about hydro costs-our power plant has just curtailed production because there’s too much power,” says United Steelworkers President, Paul French.

“The thing that is out there is that the jobs are being cut. Every time I talk to management, all they can say is we have to get rid of labor costs…I used to be on CCBAC. It’s bizarre that they can make decisions for the people; you have the representatives but they’re not hands on.”

“There was over 2,000 wood workers 40 years ago. We’re down to about 900. Why are we accepting the fact that the mills are going down? We got to work with a different system…Yeah the logs are left in the bush, that’s because they don’t want to pay stumpage. They determined it was useless wood so they used to merchandise them in the mill and now they can leave them out there to burn. Why can’t they take it to the power plant because the power plant makes money off it. The whole thing is screwed.”

Parfitt says people that want change need to focus on where the power to make change resides.

“In British Columbia because forests are largely publicly owned and under provincial administration, we really need to find a way to animate conversation between communities and their elected provincial representatives and hopefully getting a conversation and debate going at Victoria itself.”

“I really believe strongly that this issue deserves to be elevated and talked about a lot more.”

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