Forestry faces challenges, but has bright future
Prince George, B.C.- Forestry, it’s challenges and successes the focus of the Natural Resource Forum this morning.
One in every 16 jobs in B.C. is linked to forestry, the ratio even higher in the central and northern region.. Forestry provided $2.5 billion dollars in revenue to the province, and accounted for 35% of all commodity exports from B.C.
Yet, there are some who continue to think that in the wake of the mountain pine beetle epidemic, forestry is a sunset industry, nothing could be further from the truth say experts in the sector.
Yes there are challenges, including access to fibre supply “There are too many mills chasing too few trees” says James Gorman, Vice President of Corporate and Government Relations for West Fraser. Gorman says there also needs to be a competitive cost environment, stable practical regulatory environment, and reliable transportation. Gorman says many forestry companies have had issues finding rail cars, and there have been talks with the Province about making some changes to trucking “We have looked at 9 axle trucks, which can carry more, meaning fewer trips. But that would require upgrades to the roads, and some bridges to handle the extra load.”
Then there’s the softwood lumber agreement, which Gorman says needs to be resolved to provide stability and certainty.
And while other resource industries are experiencing a serious downturn because of the global economic slump, that is helping forestry when it comes to recruiting skilled labour “Some of the downturn in other sectors has been good for forestry” says Gorman “We have more and more folks from Alberta knocking on our doors.”
Still, Gorman says more needs to be done to tell the forestry story and attract young people to the business as many who have been in this sector are heading to retirement .
The bottom line?
“We are hiring” says Gorman.