Mediaplanet: Which trends/innovations in B.C.’s forestry industry excite you most?

Douglas A. Routledge: If I were to point to one thing, it would be the development of new engineered wood products and building systems. B.C. is a leader in wood design and innovation and this expertise is helping us expand the market for wood products in North America and abroad. Utilizing these new products, architects and engineers are now able to build taller and span further than ever thought possible with wood. Wood-framed mid-rise construction is now commonplace in B.C., and hopefully in other jurisdictions soon.

"As the world moves toward green, sustainable commodities, I think there are a lot of exciting innovations ahead."

Arnold Bercov: As the world moves toward green, sustainable commodities, I think there are a lot of exciting innovations ahead. Nanotechnology applied to the use of wood fibre and particularly the longer softwood fibres offers great potential for our industry. Also, innovations in engineering that could allow for taller wooden buildings and more laminated beams holds a whole new marketing opportunity for British Columbia, as well as generating much new, but needed employment in the value-added sector.

MP: What is most important to the continued growth and prosperity of B.C.’s forest sector?

DAR: In order for British Columbia’s forest industry to remain competitive we require:

  • Certainty around the availability of timber supply. The Mountain Pine Beetle epidemic and the forecasted decline in Annual Allowable Cut has made this a challenge.
  • Market diversity, both in terms of the customers we serve around the world, and in terms of the suite of forest products we produce. Tremendous growth in the Chinese market over the past decade has benefitted our industry — we need to build on this success.
  • Attracting and retaining an adequate supply of skilled labour. We need to be positioned as the industry of choice for skilled workers.
  • Modern transportation infrastructure that allows us to efficiently serve our customers around the world.

AB: Most important to the continuing growth and prosperity of B.C.’s forest industry will be its ability to adapt to a changing greener social movement. Our union has recognized the need to engage all stakeholders in managing our forests.

Dealing with issues of climate change, First Nations rights, and a growing challenge of getting more with less as the interior recovers from the pine beetle epidemic are all huge challenges to both meet head on and successfully overcome.

To reach these goals, the government, as owners of 95 per cent of our forested lands, must lead the way in engaging communities and all other stakeholders as we move forward. We must also put an end to the growing export of our raw logs and biomass. The world needs manufactured wood products, and B.C. should be at the forefront of that manufacturing.

MP: What is your advice to a young Canadian/British Columbian considering a career in forestry?

DAR: We have a job for you. We offer well paying, family supporting careers in a wide variety of fields. Traditional roles like millwrights, machinists and electricians are just the start. Computer programmers, experts in robotics, truck drivers…you name it — we need it.

World leading sustainable forest practices, cutting-edge technology, variety, and the opportunity to live and work in communities around the province, are all part of what makes a career in our sector a rewarding one.

AB: My advice to a young person considering a career in forestry is to look at all opportunities, from harvesting, to manufacturing, to research and development, and then decide what interests you.

This industry has an amazing opportunity to provide good wages and stable employment forever if managed properly. It will also provide young people a greater challenge in shaping their careers. From apprenticeship to engineering to land management and working with communities and First Nations, the possibilities are almost limitless. This is not a sunset industry, but rather one with a very bright future, if managed properly.

MP: Where is British Columbia’s forestry industry going to be in 10 years?

DAR: The transformation and innovation occurring in B.C.’s forest sector is leading us to fibre supplies, manufacturing processes, products and markets not envisioned even a few years ago.  

"World leading sustainable forest practices, cutting-edge technology, variety, and the opportunity to live and work in communities around the province, are all part of what makes a career in our sector a rewarding one."

Most of us have long known wood is a sustainable, carbon sequestering, recyclable, and hence environmentally friendly source of building materials and paper products.  However, until recently only a few have understood from mill and forest residuals, wood’s cellular components also offer us a source of environmentally friendly building blocks for production of liquid bio-fuels and bio-chemicals & their by-products of plastics, pharmaceuticals and more.  Look for the industry of the future to be about much more than lumber, panels and pulp.

AB: In 10 years’ time I am hopeful we will see a stronger and even more vibrant industry. My hope is the entire province will be Forest Stewardship Council certified, which means we will be managing our forests to the highest standards.

As the interior recovers from the devastating pine beetle epidemic, there should be more opportunities in silviculture and a divergent forest economy that allows for more value-added products as well as continuing operation of the pulp and paper sector.

On the coast we should see more manufacturing and, hopefully, more integrated companies once again emerging to create a stronger, viable industry. I also think in 10 years we will see many more First Nations growing the industry but having direct community and localized involvement.

I hope in 10 years we can look back and say that all the conflicts of the past were just that, “the past”, and that we are on the path to creating even more employment and community stability.