The provincial government has set up a new structure to help solve challenges facing the forest industry in the Kootenays.
The Kootenay TSA Coalition held its inaugural meeting in Cranbrook in November. It encompasses the Invermere, Cranbrook and Kootenay Lake timber supply areas.
The initiative is being organized by Canfor at the request of Premier John Horgan.
The initial 25-person invitee list consisted mostly of representatives of forest companies, First Nations groups and local governments.
Nelson Mayor John Dooley and Regional District of Central Kootenay Area A director Garry Jackman attended the meeting.
“The goal of the group is to develop a positive and forward-looking vision for a successful industry focused on the mid-term timber supply that will support workers, Indigenous Nations and communities for the long term,” said Canfor’s Michelle Wright in an email response to questions from the Star.
“[Premier Horgan’s] letter has asked that local forestry companies, Indigenous Nations, labour leaders and municipal government leaders collaborate in the timber supply area coalitions,” she continued.
She said the group has identified five key themes to focus on, which could expand or evolve as the group’s work progresses.
“The current themes include enhancing Indigenous participation in the forest economy, collaborative forest stewardship, thriving forests, building strong communities and creating value,” she said.
Community forests and watersheds?
Asked if the group intends to include community forests and groups concerned with water rights and other environmental and ecological issues, Wright replied “The group is in the very early planning stages of this initiative. We envision this to be a broad-based group … Once there are established roles and responsibilities, there will be a review of the makeup of the group.”
The RDCK board has appointed three of its members to attend the meetings alternatively or as they are available: Jackman, chair Aimee Watson, and Area E director Ramona Faust.
“There are a lot of unknowns at this point”
Watson said there may be opportunities to talk about not only the economy “but also the land-use issues that come up. Combine that with climate change and all the data the RDCK has been collecting on everything from flood plain management to watershed governance.
“Because forestry is facing a decline we have to be as involved as possible, so all hands on deck. I see it as being an opportunity.”
“That being said,” she continued, “who knows where this will go. I hope it results in positive outcomes. There are a lot of unknowns at this point.”
Dooley is part of a working group coming up with terms of reference for the group. He told the Star the organization is still in its early days and there is not much he can say yet about its plans.
He said he was invited to be involved partly because for several years between his terms as mayor he worked for the Interior Lumber Manufacturers Association as a liaison with municipal governments.
The coalition is not related to the formal timber supply reviews conducted province-wide by the forest ministry.