Tree Planters Seeking Solutions To Crucial Forestry Issues At Conference

With the largest insect plague on the planet devastating forests in B.C., tree planters are concerned about government figures that predict the province’s reforestation program is about to actually decline significantly.

Date: 02/05/08
Subject: WSCA Conference
Release Date: Immediate

KAMLOOPS – In what could prove to be a pivotal year for British Columbia’s tree planters and seedling growers, members of the Western Silvicultural Contractors Association (WSCA), are gathering in Kamloops Feb. 6-8 for their annual conference determined to get answers to difficult issues looming for the industry.

With the largest insect plague on the planet devastating forests in B.C., tree planters are concerned about government figures that predict the province’s reforestation program is about to actually decline significantly.

“Current trends show we will be planting 70-million fewer trees in 2009 representing a possible 25 per cent drop,” says John Betts WSCA Executive Director referring to seedling sowing requests from government and industry. Last year approximately 267-million seedlings were planted in B.C. according to the WSCA.

“The numbers of seedlings planted per year has been more or less constant for the last decade in spite of the increasing devastation of the mountain pine beetle,” said Betts.

“Lumber markets and trade barriers are likely part of the reason for the predicted decline in tree planting,” said Betts. But pressure to reduce costs for forest companies and reductions in government forestry programs are contributing as well.

“In the last decade public investments in forestry have declined.” said Betts. “Only recently has government started to reinvest in forestry. But our government program is still only half of what it was in the 1990s before we had the beetle attack. Yet, each year the MoF has to go cap-in-hand to treasury and ask for funding.”

Recently the Premier was quoted in a Vancouver newspaper as saying, “we have to become as well known for planting trees as we are for cutting trees.” “We support the premier 100 per cent in that, and we are looking forward to helping him make that commitment a reality,” Betts stated.

But not all remarks lately from government indicate they want to champion planting trees according to Betts. Citing an adviser to the Premier who recently questioned the value of reforestation in reducing green house gases in an address to the C.D. Howe Institute Betts said, “there seems to be a conflicting view from some in government and industry who discount promptly and actively regenerating our forests.” The tree planting industry’s concerns come as they cross a major milestone in the practice of silviculture in B.C. namely the planting of the province’s six billionth seedling in 2008.

“Our basic aim is to bring the forests back to health through reforestation and eco-system restoration,” said Betts. “Healthy forests mean a healthy environment, a healthy economy and a healthy future. We will not achieve that if we fail to invest heavily in silviculture. Past programs reflecting a solid commitment from government and industry brought us to the six billionth tree and the benefits of that work. That investment and effort must be maintained and even expanded.”

Meanwhile NDP Leader Carol James will unveil her party’s forestry platform at the conference being held at Sun Peaks Resort. She will speak on Thursday, Feb. 7.

“We are looking forward to hearing what the NDP has to say,” said Betts. “We are not taking a position with either party at this point, and feel the forests are important enough that solutions to problems like the pine beetle and other issues should be bipartisan, with both parties working toward the same goals.”

The WSCA represents 60 B.C. member companies and has been supporting policies and developing initiatives dedicated to maintaining healthy forests, a clean environment and responsible practices for three decades.

For additional information please contact:
John Betts
Executive Director
Western Silvicultural Contractors’ Association
Phone: 250-354-8922
hotpulp@netidea.com

For additional contacts or information call:
Bill McIntyre
250-706-0215