Note: The following letter comes from Nick Arkle, CEO, Downie Timber/Selkirk
Most people in Revelstoke will be aware of the announcement on Nov. 2 from the BC Provincial Government regarding timber harvest deferrals across the province. The announcement identified the Province’s intention to work in partnership with First Nations to defer 2.6 million hectares of BC’s most at-risk old-growth forests. This step is part of the process that started in 2020 to identify which old growth forests with special attributes are at risk of irreversible loss. A strategic review by the Province was followed by a group producing maps that show the areas that will require two-year deferrals from harvesting while the longer-term decisions are made.
Many views and opinions have been presented since the announcement. As is normal, the views are positional, with some saying it is not enough and others saying it is far too much. Regardless of the different opinions presented, we need to be clear that there will be a significant impact. The question is, what level of impact are the various interests prepared to accept?
This is not a simple challenge, and to get it wrong will lead to severe negative impacts on individuals losing their livelihood, communities losing services, and excessive negative environmental impacts. Quite simply, we can not afford to get it wrong. This situation applies to the Revelstoke community and its immediate geographical region.
Downie Timber/Selkirk is one of, if not the main economic driver of the Revelstoke community. It has invested nearly $150 million since 1990 to develop an operation with the latest design and technology to produce high-quality products from the least amount of resources. The high-value products allow it to create more from less while offsetting the very high costs associated with working in this area and employing far more people than expected for this size of operation. Downie Timber has 300 employees with family-supporting jobs who live, play, volunteer and spend their money in the shops, restaurants, coffee shops and recreation areas. A standard multiplier of an additional 1.1 indirect jobs to direct jobs suggests that a minimum of 630 people, and their families, within a community of 8,000 depend on getting the old-growth timber balance right.
Our employees, and your neighbours, are concerned about the future of the environment, the working forest, supporting their families, earning a decent living, paying local taxes, and living in a place that is their home. Many of our employees are multi-generational Revelstoke families. I can not tell our employees or others in the community not to be concerned. Quite simply, decisions that do not seek a well thought out balance will put livelihoods and communities at risk.
Downie Timber is committed to working towards reconciliation with Indigenous Nations and their active partnership in land management. We are committed to continue working with the various groups that have shared interests in and on the land, and we are committed to working with the government to ensure that a sustainable forest management model, based on sound science and shared values, is reached. I believe those shared values include the mutual desire to have vibrant communities and a healthy environment.
Downie Timber is committed to being respectful and factual. We will not exaggerate or give misleading statements. The community of Revelstoke should hold Downie Timber and all parties in the discussion accountable for accurate communication through this process. I encourage you to challenge us if numbers or facts are not understood. We need everyone to accept that they must be accountable for what they say and the positions they put forward. Those actively involved in this process have a consequential responsibility to the whole community.
Revelstoke has a proven and well-deserved reputation for solving complex challenges together. It is an isolated, often-overlooked community that leads the province in ‘made-at-home’ solutions. I have faith that by coming together, we will find a balance that brings together the Indigenous groups, community, interest groups, businesses, and government to find a satisfactory way forward.
It is, after all, the Revelstoke way!
Nick Arkle, CEO