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BC Council of Forest Industries says old-growth deferrals could lead to thousands of job losses and mill closures

(Files by Brendan Pawliw-MyPGNow)

BC Council of Forest Industries President Susan Yurkovich stated the province’s decision to defer 2.6 million hectares of old-growth forests will have major consequences for the sector.

The government estimates 45-hundred jobs could be impacted if all hectares transition to protected areas.

However, Yurkovich believes closer to 18-thousand jobs will be threatened, which would equate to 400-million dollars in lost revenue to the province each year.

“And we think that roughly translates into about 14-20 sawmill facilities that will close along with two pulp mills. It’s a devastating impact for the industry should the government choose to fully implement the recommendations.”

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She adds if more sawmills close, the trickle-down effect is much greater than people realize.

“It’s not just the 300 jobs in a mill, all of a sudden the real estate market people lose value in their homes, people move away, schools close, and municipal tax basins disappear. It has a knock-off effect and it is devastating for communities where that occurs.”

One thing that Yurkovich didn’t clarify was where these job losses and mill closures might occur.

When asked if we may see more curtailments as a result of the deferral, Yurkovich stated that’s a real possibility.

“If these are immediate deferrals, in order to get a cutting permit in our province takes about a year sometimes more, sometimes up to two years and so it’s not like you can immediately switch to another operating area, so yes, this is going to have some immediate impacts.”

Yurkovich mentioned the deferral feels like an attack on a sector that has been foundational in the province.

“We already have constraints around access to fibre so this is going to put additional pressure on companies to try and find fibre to feed their mills and those mills provide jobs and economic benefits to communities around our province.”

“I mean, we have had a sustainable forest industry in this province and we’ve been creating products that are done with workers who are skilled in our facilities around the province. We are creating low-carbon products that the world wants at a time when low-carbon products are in demand.”

Canfor president and CEO Don Kayne issued the following statement on old-growth deferrals:

“Today’s old-growth announcement by the BC government to defer 2.6 million hectares of forests is extremely concerning to Canfor. If fully implemented, it would have significant impacts on our hard-working employees and their families, along with our Indigenous partners, contractors, communities, and the entire industry.

The BC forest sector has been negatively impacted by ongoing constraints on the working forest that have eroded the global competitiveness of our industry. Our industry is recognized around the world as a leader in sustainable forest management and we want to continue producing in-demand, low carbon wood products that are helping to address the climate crisis.

Today’s old-growth announcement will further challenge any opportunities for investment in BC.

We are again asking the government to meaningfully engage with Indigenous Nations, forest professionals, local experts and industry to develop a balanced, science-based approach to old-growth management,”

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