Wilderness Committee and Steelworkers Find Common Cause Pushing Sustainable Forestry Reforms



    BURNABY, BC, June 4 /CNW/ - Canada's largest membership-based
environmental organization, the Western Canada Wilderness Committee with
70,000 members and supporters, said today it supports a call by Canada's
largest forestry union for action to stop the decline of forestry jobs in BC.
    The United Steelworkers (USW), with 60,000 members in Western Canada, in
April put forward a 10-point plan to sustain BC forestry jobs and has urged
the BC government to adopt it. Since January 2007, more than 12,000 BC
forestry jobs have been lost due to mill closures and shutdowns of logging
operations.
    "The Wilderness Committee believes that the USW's 10-point plan includes
many progressive, innovative ideas. We support most of the recommendations in
their proposal. If implemented along with stronger environmental laws in BC,
it would help bring the province towards a more sustainable path for both the
environment and workers," said Ken Wu, campaign director of the Wilderness
Committee's Victoria chapter.
    "Any support we can get for our efforts to protect BC jobs is welcomed in
these desperate times," said USW Staff Representative Scott Lunny. "We may not
agree on everything, but we're willing to work with conservation groups and a
wide diversity of organizations and interests to ensure sustainable jobs in
BC's forestry dependent communities."
    The Wilderness Committee says it will push the Campbell government to
ensure investment in sawmills and other wood manufacturing plants in BC to
process second-growth logs here rather than ship them to the US. Second-growth
forests now constitute at least three-quarters of the productive forests on
the southern BC coast. The Wilderness Committee believes that a shift towards
a second-growth wood processing industry would help to facilitate a win-win
situation for the environment and forestry workers.
    Unfortunately, many of BC's second growth logs are being exported raw to
US and Asian mills. Companies are also exporting highly-valuable second-growth
timber at an early rotation age - Douglas fir under 40 years, for instance -
while leaving usable sawlogs to rot in the cutblocks. High-grading valuable
cedar and fir, leaving behind less valuable hemlock logs, is also a common
practice.
    Meanwhile, the Campbell government is simply watching while scores of
sawmills shut down rather than assisting in their retooling or enacting
policies that would encourage manufacturing of second-growth timber, for
instance through tax-shifting, using Canada-US lumber agreement funds to build
new facilities or other innovative measures contained in USW's plan.
    The Wilderness Committee is also joining USW in calling on the Campbell
government to completely end the export of raw logs from both public and
private lands. Until now, the government's position is that regulating private
forest lands is a federal matter. Yet, until recently, the province banned
raw-log exports on 120,000 hectares of private forest lands within Tree Farm
Licenses 6, 19, 25, and 44; between 2004 and 2007 they were withdrawn from
tree-farm-licenses. A promised provincial tax on raw-log exports on Crown
lands, meanwhile, was recently postponed indefinitely.
    "Today the BC government is nothing but a spectator at the collapse of
our forest sector," said Wu. "It's time it actually did something and bring in
substantive, concrete, and progressive policies to create a win-win situation
for BC's resource-based communities and forests.
    "We will be joining forces with workers between now and the May 2009 BC
election to raise the profile of forestry issues."

    The Steelworkers 10-Point Platform includes the following main points:

    1. Get tough on Safety; 2. Stop the Outflow of Raw Logs; 3. Provide
Incentives to Domestic Manufacturers; 4. Encourage investment in domestic
manufacturing; 5. Require domestic processing as a condition of all forest
licences; 6. Get tough on wood waste; 7. Reform or abrogate Canada-US Softwood
Lumber Agreement; 8. Introduce accountability clause in forest licences to
protect workers and communities; 9. Develop a reforestation, afforestation and
intensive silviculture strategy; 10. Develop a training strategy aimed at
retraining workers and stabilizing communities.





For further information:

For further information: Ken Wu, (250) 514-9910; Scott Lunny, (604)
329-5308


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