Tough times may be shortening some people’s memories as they consider the benefits of supporting the WSCA. A synopsis of some of the measurable achievements of the WSCA over the last decade shows the value of the silviculture sector maintaining a role in government and public affairs.

A short synopsis of some measurable accomplishments of the WSCA this decade:

The last decade of WSCA work has produced many outcomes with major and measurable benefits for the silviculture sector. Some examples of these are listed below. These achievements now have to be tended in the arena of public affairs to ensure against the backsliding and defections typical of elected governments and bureaucracies. Often each success is accompanied by as many, if not more, initiatives that only partially succeed, or fail for the time being. They remain on the registry of continuing effort by the WSCA.

The WSCA is not a well-funded lobbying organization. Historically the silviculture industry as a whole has reinvested back into the overall fitness of the sector at a rate of only .04%. This is a remarkably low rate of cooperation given that the silviculture industry is completely dependent on government policy for its very existence. This list of measurable accomplishments of the WSCA needs to be viewed then as illustrative of an organization effectively fighting far above its weight category. A tally of the estimated values listed below add up to $100 million in direct benefits to the silviculture sector over the decade. A pretty good return on investment.

1. 2002: The WSCA negotiates with the (then) Ministry of Labour special hours of work and overtime rules resulting in a new Silviculture Employment Standards Regulation. This new regulation allows the piece-work practices of the industry to continue, removing a huge liability to employers in unpaid overtime and holiday pay. This liability was an estimated $30-million at the time.

2. 2003: The WSCA works with independent fire scientists and the federal government to create political support for a major wildfire fuel hazard assessment pilot study. It was the first of its kind for B.C. and followed on recommendations by the Auditor General in 2000. After the 2003 wildfire season this seminal work is adopted by the province and soon becomes the strategic model used to determine fuel management activities in the wildland urban interface.

3. 2004: The WSCA contributes recommendations to Gary Filmon’s Firestorm 2003 Provincial Review which are reflected in the final document. The review prompts political and policy action to reduce the wildfire fuel hazard in B.C. which has become the source for both federal and provincial funding and ongoing work for contractors. The WSCA estimates fuel management opportunities for contractors to be at least $40-million today.

4. 2004: The WSCA hosts a major international wildfire conference attracting participants and presenters from around B.C. and the world. The conference enhances the WSCA as a responsible and credible organization. The conference, like the pilot wildfire fuel hazard assessment, accurately anticipates the subsequent wildfire behaviour that now challenges B.C. communities more regularly. It adds strength to the WSCA call for a comprehensive forest health strategy in the province, an imperative that has yet to be reached.

5. 2005: The WSCA negotiates a contract with the BC Forest Safety Council to implement the BC SAFE Silviculture Project aimed at improving the industry’s safety performance. Over the term of that agreement, which still continues, the WSCA has managed over $1-million to conduct health and safety research, develop training standards and communicate to the sector. This agreement has strengthened and expanded the association, reduced risk to workers and made the silviculture sector a leader in workplace safety in the forest industry.

6. 2006: Faced with pressing workforce problems including the loss of experienced workers and declining applications the WSCA meets with forest company executives, including BCTS, and asks for concessions including extending the planting season. This request is agreed to and results in sparing many silviculture firms from fines and forfeited contracts.

7. 2006: The WSCA holds its first tree planting summit and provides an analysis and exposition of the pending increasing demand for planting across the province. This information combined average workers wages, workforce demographics and bid price trends compared to the cost of living. It serves to firm the resolve of many bidders leading to an increase in bid prices ranging from 7% to a high of 30%. The WSCA conservatively estimates this trend improved the service market dollars available to contractors by at $15 million in one year.

8. 2007: The WSCA negotiates with various locals of the United Steel and Allied Workers to ensure that seedlings slated for planting during the West Coast forest sector strike are not destroyed. As a result nurseries and planting firms are able to plant an estimated 6-million seedlings representing around $8-million worth of product and work.

9. 2008: The WSCA lobbies the ministry of forests and works with their harvest sector allies to ensure that silviculture nurseries and contractors are paid for services and products provided to the bankrupt Pope & Talbot. Those nurseries and contractors are eventually paid.

10. 2008: The WSCA, with the help of individual contractors, rightfully claims the province’s 6-Billionth Tree celebration and the credit that goes with that major accomplishment. Events are held across B.C. that attract provincial and national media coverage of forestry issues in B.C.

11. 2009: The WSCA assists contractors in arranging a memorandum of understanding with vehicle regulatory agencies in B.C. and Alberta allowing crummies to be brought into compliance over a three-period rather than having them taken off the road. This provision saves the industry at least a million dollars in replacement costs and lost investments.

12. 2009: The WSCA negotiates with the Community Development Trust Fund $500,000 in training support for the silviculture sector. Later that year government announces that qualified silviculture workers would be eligible for training and work under programs funded by the Community Development Trust; something the WSCA has lobbied for.

13. 2010: The WSCA is awarded $1.7 million dollars in Western Economic Diversification Community Adjustment Fund and Job Opportunities Program dollars to create work for silviculture contractors and workers.

John Betts,
Executive Director
Western Silvicultural Contractors’ Association
Ph: 250-229-4380