Locals gather to discuss health of the forest industry

An event to discuss the health of Golden’s forest industry brought over 40 locals to the Seniors Centre last Tuesday.

Four local and provincial forest professionals delivered presentations ranging in topics from how we manage our forest land base to what future opportunities exist in the area of biomass and bioenergy.

Columbia River-Revelstoke MLA Norm Macdonald also spoke at the event, emphasizing the economic, social and environmental significance of the region’s “invaluable” resource.

“We want to talk about what the health of the forest industry is right now, what we can do to make it better, and how we can incorporate it in this report,” said Ryan Watmough, Executive Director of the Golden & District Community Foundation, before introducing the evening’s speakers.

The report Watmough is referring to is called Vital Signs— a community report initiative that measures the quality of life in Canadian communities. In Golden, the report is being spearheaded by a steering committee that meets about twice a month. This is the steering committee’s second community engagement event.

Forest Industry Information Session presenters included Darcy Monchak, a natural resources planner, who spoke on how the one million hectares that makes up the Golden Timber Supply Area are managed.  Monchak explained that because both our values and resources are always changing, so is the way we manage them.

“Timber resource on its own is a beast to manage,” said Monchak, repeating his catch phrase of the day: It’s not simple.

Kurt Huettmeyer, Resource Manager for the Ministry of Forests, Selkirk District explained the four phases of government reorganization since 2009 and why the changes took place, while Paul Frasca, Tree Farm Forester for Tembec, talked about Tembec’s current position in both the world and local markets.

“The forecast remains positive,” said Frasca, explaining that softwood lumber export to China is on a steady incline.

Finally, Diana Brooks, Regional Project Manager for the RuralBC Secretariat, brought the conversation to a different level by discussing how we can diversify the local economy by using forest resources for energy.

“We need to start aligning what we’re doing in our communities with provincial, federal and global priorities, and that means looking at biomass and bioenergy,” said Brooks.

Although the five presenters delivered thorough reports of how their sector of the industry is faring right now, it was clear that the many people in the audience, too, were well educated on these issues.

“We appreciate all of your comments and can see that there is interest in a meaningful public dialogue around the future of the forestry industry in Golden” said Sara Davis, the evening’s moderator and member of the Vital Signs steering committee.

Some themes that arose from the audience included the negative impacts of centralizing government, and, on the biomass topic, whether or not the bigger problem is that Canada sells its energy for too low of a price.

MLA Norm Macdonald wrapped up the evening with three points.

“The first thing I’d like to say is that the expertise in this room is incredible,” said Macdonald. “In all the years I’ve been in politics, I have never sat in a room with this much knowledge on the subject.”

This, he explained, is just another reason why we need to keep pushing for localized decision making.

Macdonald also recognized the challenges we face in today’s forest industry, including issues like the pine beetle and climate change. He finished by emphasizing how important it is that we put the forestry industry at the front of our agenda.

“This is an invaluable asset. It’s worth investing in it; it’s worth figuring it out.”

The Vital Signs Steering Committee is now looking for any local data sets that local community organizations may have – especially those from education, recreation, police, safety, development, transportation, non-profits and government.