BURNABY, BC, April 20, 2012 /CNW/ - The B.C. Government should restore the links between timber harvesting and wood-products manufacturing says the United Steelworkers union.
Steelworkers were responding to a leaked B.C. Cabinet document, which indicates the provincial government is considering measures to increase timber supply in areas impacted by the mountain pine beetle infestation.
"We believe it is important to help communities get through the tough times ahead when beetle-damaged timber is not longer useful for sawmills," said Steelworkers Wood Council Chair Bob Matters. "But we also believe there is no point in doing that if the timber isn't used to create local jobs from our resources."
Matters also urged the B.C. Liberal Government to take steps to improve reforestation and forest inventories and to develop a silvicultural program to improve growth, yields and timber quality, moves which he suggests would create jobs now and enhance the quality and quantity of future timber. A recent report by B.C.'s auditor-general showed how budget cuts and mismanagement have undermined replanting and inventory management, to the point the province is repeatedly missing its reforestation objectives and does not know how much timber is growing or available for harvesting.
"These should be seen as emergency measures that are part of the overall beetle-management strategy," said Matters. "The primary goals should be more jobs in local communities, improved forest management and long-term forest health."
Matters also urged the creation of an agency similar to the Jobs Protection Commissioner, scraped by the B.C. Liberal Government in the full flush of its "free market" approach to forest management early in its mandate.
"It seems fair to conclude that free-market forestry has failed, costing us thousands of jobs and over 70 wood-processing facilities in the past decade. It's time to ensure that forest policy is again designed to create jobs in B.C. using B.C. resources."
Matters noted that the first order of business should be to ensure timber for Burns Lake, where the Hampton Affiliates sawmill exploded and burned in January. "A good place to start tying jobs to timber is Burns Lake - those folks need some good news," he said.
For further information:
Bob Matters, office: 604-683-1117 or mobile: 604-996-4476