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Community Perspectives on the BC Coastal Forest Industry
Linking Communities and Provincial Decision-Makers
By acting as a vital link between communities and the province and providing hands-on advice to government, industry and community leaders, the TLA helps to create workable solutions that address the challenges facing today’s forest industry. To this end, the TLA undertook a follow-up study to the one it conducted in 2004 to measure the pulse and perspectives of our coastal communities.
As in our previous study, community leaders were surveyed because we wanted to see what impact the massive forest policy changes that took place over the last decade had on the viability of the communities they represent. A total of 27 coastal BC communities responded (three more than in 2004), including many where forestry has the greatest local economic impact.
Our 2004 survey was the first ever to gather opinions related to the changing forest industry from leaders in the communities where TLA members live and work. In our follow up, we have collated these unique perspectives into this report, comparing responses with previous ones so we can benchmark how the changing forest industry has affected the sustainability of our sector and our communities.
This report is not meant to be exhaustive, but rather identifies forestry related issues of concern to coastal community leaders today. All community leaders contacted were appreciative of the opportunity to exchange views with an organization dedicated to supporting community-based business.
Community Perspectives on the BC Coastal Forest Industry - Summary
June 20, 2016, Vancouver - Community leaders are not as optimistic as they once were about the coastal forest industry, and most feel the industry is in worse shape now than it was just over a decade ago. Not surprisingly, mayors are concerned about job loss and the economic impact on coastal towns and cities. These are just a few of the findings from an extensive study measuring the pulse and perspectives of coastal communities undertaken by The Truck Loggers Association, which represents independent timber harvesting contractors working on BC’s coast.
“Contractors are the economic backbone of many rural communities,” explained TLA Executive Director David Elstone. “Since our last survey, more than 25 timber harvesting contractors have had to seek insolvency protection in communities throughout coastal BC.”
Communities Perspectives on the BC Coastal Forest Industry reports on the outcome of two surveys conducted by the TLA, one in 2004 and the other in 2015, benchmarking changes in attitude and expectation. The 27 community leaders who responded to our survey are quick to acknowledge the importance of forestry to their local economies and some see a recent market recovery in the coastal forest industry bringing hope back to their communities.
“Campbell River certainly has been adversely impacted…with the loss of the TimberWest sawmill and the Catalyst pulp mill. We see that [industry] starting to come back and we’re certainly welcoming it," commented Andy Adams, Mayor of Campbell River.
Other findings released in the report are:
- 62% of community leaders show guarded support for log exports today as compared to 60% in the past.
- There is even stronger support for the working forest with 86% of community leaders supporting the concept compared to 80% in 2004.
- Nearly 30% of the mayors we reached out to think their communities were impacted by the creation of parks and protected areas, some positively, some negatively.
- There is strong support for First Nations involvement in the coastal forest sector, which has generated new opportunity in business and employment since our last survey.
- 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.
There is also consensus that more needs to be done. The TLA’s study indicates community leaders are frequently unsure of the province’s efforts to improve forest practices and policies, and even when they are aware they often have difficulty being heard. The TLA is committed to expanding its reach by sharing its unique community perspective with the provincial government to address the concerns expressed by its member companies and these communities.
“More than half of our community leaders are still optimistic about the future of forestry in the face of all the adversity the coastal forest industry has withstood over the past few decades,” pointed out David Elstone, TLA Executive Director. “We stand with them and will work to ensure the working forest and the industry it supports will continue to create jobs for local communities.”