Thousands expected at forestry rally at legislature, Tuesday

Forestry rally on budget day

Thousands of B.C. forestry workers and their supporters are planning to gather for a rally on the B.C. legislature lawn Tuesday afternoon, coinciding with the release of the province’s 2020 budget.

The rally is intended to bring attention to the revenue the forestry industry creates and the people it supports, from loggers and tree fallers to industry suppliers and business owners, said Carl Sweet, a heavy equipment salesman in Campbell River and one of the event’s organizers.

“I think people have really lost touch on how important forestry is to this province and what it pays for,” Sweet said. “We wouldn’t have the life we’ve come accustomed to with our social programs, and our hospitals, and our school systems and flat roads if it wasn’t for the revenues from forestry.”

A 2017 report by PwC said the forestry industry contributed $12.94 billion in gross domestic product to the province and supported more than 140,000 jobs directly and indirectly. The report was commissioned by the Council of Forest Industries.

The grassroots group behind the rally, B.C. Forestry Alliance, is concerned that stricter limits on harvesting old-growth trees are on the way. The province’s Old Growth Strategic Review is set to make recommendations in spring 2020 that will inform a new approach to the management of old-growth forests.

“When we have a review panel looking at that harvest, that can only mean one thing, and chances are it’s going to be reduced,” Sweet said.

About 33% of the province’s 13.2 million hectares of old-growth forests are protected in national and provincial parks, wildlife habitat ranges, regional water supply sheds, old-growth management areas and other areas, according to the province.

About 2,000 to 3,000 people are expected to attend the rally Tuesday to ask the government not to increase limits on the amount of old-growth harvesting allowed. A convoy of up to 50 commercial trucks will travel from Chemainus and park around the legislature.

“We need to make a statement,” Sweet said. “We believe, with the amount of professionals that are involved with forestry, that it is sustainable.”

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