Comment: Forestry still a major economic driver in B.C.

The coastal forest industry wants to set the record straight. While broad and catchy statements are often made about forestry, we have just been through a provincial election campaign when emotions ran high and politics superceded fact in the public dialogue.

Though industries can be depersonalized in the mix, the impact is personal to the hard-working people whose lives depend on the health of forestry. To them, the consequences of misinformation pack a punch.

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We have seen flawed claims, assumptions and information make their rounds lately. These have real consequences on real lives and we would like to provide clarification:

• The claim that forestry on the coast is no longer important: Tell this to the men and women who rely on forestry for their livelihoods. Tell this to their children. Tell this to the towns and communities that rely on employed people to keep local businesses afloat and hospitals, schools and social services funded. Even if people do not work in the industry or live in a coastal community, they are still affected by one of British Columbia’s largest economic drivers.

Forestry on the B.C. coast is important. It directly provides more than 38,000 people their livelihoods and translates to about 10 per cent of all jobs and 11 per cent of the total GDP in the coastal economy.

• Confusing correlation with causation: Just because two events happen at the same time doesn’t mean that they are causally related. Nonetheless, I see this flawed argument made time and time again when it comes to alleging how log exports caused 70 mills to shut down with extensive job losses. The fact is that these were caused by the 2008 global economic meltdown, which in turn created the worst forest-products market conditions ever recorded. Because the provincial and federal governments worked with us during these years to open markets and improve competition, B.C. forestry survived and emerged from the recession better than any other place in the world.

The reality is that forestry and people in coastal communities strongly believe and know first-hand, that B.C. logs create B.C. jobs.

• Lack of knowledge of the industry as it is today: While forestry has been a part of the B.C. landscape since our province’s inception, the industry has changed drastically. Therefore, using old or antiquated information, even several years old, when referring to coastal forestry can be dangerous and result in a missed long-shot.

Forestry on the coast of B.C. is modern. We are focused on sustainability, investing in technology, developing high-value forest products for our recovering domestic and global markets, and emerging new markets.

Articles and stories can influence positive change, educate, shape government policy, support industry success and improve the welfare of people and communities. When the coastal forest industry operates responsibly and prospers, this should be recognized and encouraged in the public dialogue.

Forestry has been important to British Columbians for more than 100 years — it is part of the fibre of our being. It is worth getting to know.

Learn facts you may not know about coastal forestry at coastforest.org.

Rick Jeffery is president and CEO of the Coast Forest Products Association.

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