WILLIAMS LAKE (NEWS 1130) — A call has gone out for help stemming job losses in the wake of several B.C. mills closing or temporarily suspending operations.
Supply shortages and unstable market conditions have been blamed for falling timber prices.
The Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development is seeking public input to rebuild the industry in the Interior–the region suffering most from back-to-back wildfire seasons and the mountain pine beetle infestation.
Minister Doug Donaldson says, “The previous government failed to help the forest sector when it had a chance, eroding the public’s trust in B.C.’s forest sector operations and diminishing its competitive advantage.”
He adds, “We are taking action and making different choices by asking for local input and insight into how we want to shape a prosperous, competitive and culturally sensitive Interior future forest sector.”
A month-long state of financial crisis has also been declared in Fort St. James where the Conifex sawmill recently shut down.
Mayor Bev Playfair says the $39-million sale to Hampton Lumber means operations won’t start up again any time soon.
Hampton executives say the long-term outlook is “promising” to build a new mill in the area, even though current economic conditions are “extremely challenging.”
Playfair says the crisis declaration won’t be lifted before August 15th.
Earlier this year, Premier John Horgan announced $20 billion has been dedicated over the next three years for public infrastructure projects built with locally-harvested wood.
That includes the new Royal BC Museum in Victoria and the new St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver.
The public has until October 11 to submit written submissions and/or complete a survey online about the following topics:
* forest tenure and fibre supply
* climate change and forest carbon
* manufacturing capacity and fibre use
* wood products innovation
* reconciliation with Indigenous communities
* fibre and sustainability of timber and non-timber forest values
Public engagement sessions are also being held in various communities starting with Williams Lake on July 18.
-With files from The Canadian Press