Tim Collins/News staff
An economic study released on Sept. 25 by the B.C. Council of Forest Industries (COFI) has confirmed that the industry continues to be a cornerstone of the provincial economy and is responsible for 140, 000 jobs in the province. That translates into one in every 17 jobs in British Columbia.
The industry generates a total of $8.6-billion in wages and $433-billion in output and $12.9-billion in GDP.
The cornerstone of that success is the demand, world-wide for B.C.’s forest industry exports. Some 24 per cent of all forest product exports go to China and, in total, forest exports account for 34 per cent of all provincial exports.
The other aspect of the economic activity fueled by the forest industry is related to transportation infrastructure as the exports are a significant consumer of ports, warehousing, railways, trucking, towing, barging and all manner of associated support services. Some 21 per cent of all traffic in Vancouver is related to the industry.
Ken Kalesnikoff, the chair of the Interior Lumber Manufacturers’ Association remarked on the report, saying, “In the interior, our economic health depends on a vibrant forest sector. All parts of the industry play a crucial role in creating well-paying, family-supporting jobs in every part of our region.
In Revelstoke, that statement is particularly true.
Mike Copperthwaite, manager of the Revelstoke Community Forest Corporation commented on the report by emphasizing that it’s important for the residents of the city to remember that forestry is still at the heart of Revelstoke’s economy.
“We’re a relatively small operation and we contribute about $5-million in economic activity. Downie (Downie Timber Ltd. and Selkirk Cedar) are ten times as big as us, so you can only imagine what impact they have,” said Copperthwaite.
“Given the way the demographics in Revelstoke has changed and some of the changes in the economy with tourism becoming so important, it’s easy to discount forestry as a thing of the past. That just isn’t the case and people should realize that.”
Copperthwaite pointed to the fact that his industry provides a good number of well-paid technical jobs and that wages in the industry are generally well above average. That, he said, is the kind of employment that builds a healthy community.
As far as the impact of wildfires and climate change goes, Copperthwaite said the fact that Revelstoke lies in a “wet belt” has saved it from fire in the past, but that the industry is nonetheless taking the issue very seriously.
“We’ve gone back to doing some broadcast burns (of areas that have been cut but not yet replanted) in conjunction with the wildfire service. It gives them some practice with fires and it reduces the fuel load on our land and prevents the spread of fire across those areas if fire does break out. It also releases nutrients and makes replanting easier and more effective,” he said.