Coastal logging optimism wanes in B.C.

Community leaders across the province less positive about the future of coastal forests industry.

A partially logged coastal forest in the Alberni Valley.

A recent survey from the Truck Loggers Association (TLA) determined that optimism from community leaders towards the future of the coastal forest industry has declined since their last survey in 2004.

The TLA, which represents independent timber harvesting contractors working on BC’s coast, received responses for their follow-up survey, Community Perspectives on the BC Coastal Forest Industry, from 27 community leaders.

“We thought this would be a great time to do another survey,” David Elstone, TLA executive director said.

“It’s really to reach out to increase our connections with our local communities to get the feedback from the community decision makers, such as the mayors, to touch base and find out what their perspectives are on the forest industry.”

Sixty-two per cent of surveyed community leaders feel the forest industry is in worse shape now than it  was more than a decade ago.

In 2004, 88 per cent of community leaders surveyed felt positive about the direction forest policy changes were taking and felt confident the changes would lead to a successful forest industry in their community.

Today only 56 per cent of leaders are optimistic about the future of forestry.

“We interpret that as representing job losses…we see 25 contractors out of work due to financial challenges, or have downsized or left voluntarily but are  not happy about it and that has an impact on those communities,” Elstone said.

According to the survey more than 25 timber harvesting contractors have had to seek insolvency protection in communities throughout coastal B.C. since the last study.

One of the biggest concerns remains the lack of local manufacturing.

Port Alberni Mayor Mike Ruttan said in a TLA press release that log exports are “one of those hold your nose kind of questions. In our region log exports help us to fully utilize our forest, logging a mix of species that otherwise wouldn’t be economical to harvest.”

Sixty-two per cent of community leaders said they support log exports compared to 60 per cent in the past.

Elstone said a positive aspect of the survey was that 86 per cent of  community leaders show support for the working forest compared to 80 per cent in 2004.

“There’s  suggestions that we should be re-examining our policies on old-growth logging and that is a challenge for our industry to look at because 45 per cent of the harvest on the B.C. coast is from old growth,” Elstone said. “Mayors are worried about their communities and I think the best way to create jobs is showing support for your working forest, that includes harvesting old growth.”

The survey states that community leaders continue to recognize the need to improve the image of the forest industry in order to attract young people to fill the projected 4,700 job openings in the coastal industry between now and 2022.

To view the full survey visit www.tla.ca.

karly.blats@albernivalleynews.com

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