NDP spells out forest plans
A current forest inventory and re-dedication to replanting are critical components for the future of the industry, according to NDP forestry critic Norm Macdonald.
Macdonald was in Prince George Thursday, meeting with a variety of stakeholders as the party moves forward setting up its plan for forestry, based on five priorities.
Macdonald said there has been no accurate inventory done of the province’s forests for 30 years, meaning about 70 per cent of current decisions surrounding forestry is based on old information.
“To make informed decisions you need good accurate information,” he said.
With meetings scheduled in several cities throughout the province, Macdonald said one important factor in his portfolio is ensuring experts on the ground are consulted, whether to help strategize a plan or study one to ensure it will be practical when put in affect.
B.C. wood is known for its quality, Macdonald said, and that it is harvested according to high environmental standards. Using the expertise available to ensure those traditions continue only makes sense, as does keeping the line of communication between those experts and government productive.
“Government has to do its part,” Macdonald said. “We must look after public land.”
Macdonald added that, while the focus is on timber, combined with that is a lack of information on soils and wildlife.”
“There is a host of values where there is no accurate inventory,” he said. “The province failed.”
Finding the money to take inventory and replant will be a challenge, he said, especially in that the NDP don’t expect to see a thoroughly accurate budget produced pre-election.
Macdonald said the project will take between four to five years to complete and cost $20 to $24 million. Since NDP provincial leader, Adrian Dix, said the project would pay for itself fully, Macdonald made no promises the time frame the inventory process would be completed in was set in stone.
“But I think with the inventory we’re safe,” he said. “I think the more expensive part is replanting. But out of necessity we need to make the investment to build capacity. It all takes time.”
Macdonald said the province used to be legally committed to replanting, such as after a forest fire.
“It used to be law,” Macdonald said.
However, the law was removed in 2002 and the budget for replanting trees was cut by 90 per cent. Now about two million hectares of forest needs to be replanted.
“The plan is, within a four or five year period, to meet the government obligations,” Macdonald said.
“Inventory is such a huge issue,” NDP candidate, Sherry Ogasawara said. “We feel acutely the devastation in the Prince George region. We are encouraged Mr. Macdonald is here to share with stakeholders and provide a plan.”
The plan is of particular importance to the region Bobby Deepak, NDP candidate added.
“Forestry is critical to Prince George and the region.”
He named several mills that have closed their doors in recent years, like Clearlake, Rustads and Winston Global.
“These are good paying jobs that support families, and they are lost,” Deepak said.
He added the plan puts good practical steps in place supporting a vision to add jobs to the forestry sector while building for its future.