News Local

Forestry remains a growing concern

By Stephen Uhler, The Daily Observer

Forestry remains a strong sector in Canada's economy. according to Derek Nighbor, CEO of the Forest Products Association of Canada.

Forestry remains a strong sector in Canada's economy. according to Derek Nighbor, CEO of the Forest Products Association of Canada.

In this world of economic uncertainty, forestry remains a growing concern.

This according to Derek Nighbor, the CEO of the Forest Products Association of Canada, who made a state-of-the-industry address to members of Renfrew County's Development and Property Committee Tuesday morning.

Nighbor said forestry is a $67 billion a year industry and rural communities across Canada continue to thrive on these jobs.

He said thanks to the planned and sustainable way Canada's forests are being managed, the resource will remain viable for generations, making a big contribution in this country's efforts to reduce carbon emissions – by 2030, the forest sector is projected to reduce CO2 emissions by 30 metric tons annually and contribute 13 per cent to Canada's carbon reduction target – and be a major economic force.

“In Canada, 90 per cent of our forests are on government-owned lands, so industry is subject to rigorous legislative and regulatory requirements governing harvesting practices,” Nighbor said.

“Canada has the most third party certified – audited - forests in the world, which speaks to Canada's position as a world leader in how responsibly we manage our forests, ensuring they will be around for generations to come.”

Nighbor said for every tree that is harvested by forest companies, thfree are planted, which ensures regrowth and sustainability of our forests and forest practices.

“We have 347 million hectares of forest in Canada, and we harvest less than 1 million hectares of that, on average, per year, then we re-plant what we harvest,” he said.

That equals out to 550 million trees planted every year.

Nighbor said in Renfrew County and Eastern Ontario, the forestry sector continues to be a stable source for good paying jobs.

“The numbers here in Renfrew County are looking pretty good in terms of some of the skilled jobs, the woodlands jobs, the mill jobs, the administrator jobs,” he said. “We're seeing pretty consistent and growing number for opportunity here in the Ottawa Valley.”

In 2016, according to analysis of the labour market, there were 11,044 jobs in forestry within Eastern Ontario: 674 in woodlands, 2,200 in skilled trades, 6,052 in mill operations, and 1,601 in administration.

By 2020, these figures are expected to remain stable, with perhaps another 304 jobs being created: 692 in woodlands, 2,279 in skilled trades, 6,214 in mill operations, and 1,645 in administration.

There is now a new website for those seeking jobs in the forestry sector called thegreenestworkforce.ca, which is a joint effort between the federal government and the forest industry. Nighbor said it is proving very popular, with more than 100,000 hits and 1,410 job seeker registrations on the site already.

This isn't to say the forestry sector isn't facing challenges.

“In recent years, we have been losing about four million hectares of forest to fires and about 20 million hectares to insects, which is 25 times what forest companies harvest,” he said, noting this is mostly due to climate change.

“It is important that industry, government and communities work together to ensure that we are doing what we can to prevent and address fires and insects,” Nighbor said.

Another very serious issue are those who are lobbying to put restrictions on forestry activities like banning all logging in Algonquin Park or attempts to preserve wildlife and the wilderness through species-at-risk legislation. Nighbor said those in forestry want to preserve species and wilderness areas as much as anyone, but such environmental efforts must be balanced with knowledge of the economic consequences, and solid science to back it up.

He said too often, politics runs these decisions.

Petawawa Mayor Bob Sweet, chairman of the development and property committee, said forestry is one of the four pillars of the county's economy – the others being tourism, agriculture and manufacturing – and it is very important they maintain and promote dialogue with the federal and provincial governments about these matters.

“Algonquin Park is one of the best managed parks in the world, and yet I'm worried about efforts to restrict it further,” he said.

SUhler@postmedia.com