There's no better time than International Day of Forests to reflect on the importance of forests to the social and economic well-being of British Columbians," says Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations Steve Thomson.
"Whether you're taking a camping trip, going for a nature walk, enjoying the view from a wilderness back road or even buying a bit of lumber for a home improvement project this weekend, I encourage all British Columbians to consider what these activities would be like without healthy forests," he says.
International Day of the Forests is celebrated worldwide every year on March 21 as a way of increasing public awareness about the contribution of healthy forests to the planet's overall health. The B.C. government continues to do its part by ensuring B.C.'s forests are properly managed and cared for, despite significant challenges that remain in the wake of the mountain pine beetle outbreak.
In 2005, the provincial government launched the Forests for Tomorrow program, which has invested almost $300 million in reforestation activities, surveyed about 1.3 million hectares, and planted more than 130 million seedlings over 95,000 hectares. In 2013, ministry staff surveyed close to eight million hectares of forest in the B.C. Interior as part of a 10-year, $80-million strategic inventory program announced last winter. Those efforts are continuing this year with major re-inventory projects of the 100 Mile House, Vanderhoof, Haida Gwaii, Mid-Coast, Kamloops, and Lakes timber supply areas.
"The forest industry continues to be a major economic driver, providing jobs and prosperity for tens of thousands of British Columbians," says Thomson. "In 2013, the value of B.C. forest product exports rose by over $1 billion to $11.6 billion. As well, direct employment in the forest sector rose to 58,200 people, a 13% increase from 2009.
"More than ever, the B.C. government is focused on restoring forest health and striking a balance between job creation and long-term sustainability. Through targeted investment, sound decision-making and responsible stewardship, we can help ensure B.C.'s forests will continue contributing to the prosperity and enjoyment of British Columbians for generations to come."
British Columbia is home to one of the largest public forests in the world. Of a total land base of 95 million hectares, 55 million hectares are considered productive forest land and only 22 million hectares are available for commercial timber harvesting.
Only 5% of tB.C.'s land base is privately owned - meaning that 95% of the forests belong to the people of British Columbia. About 75% of B.C.'s annual timber harvest comes from operations that meet one of three internationally recognized sustainable forest management certification standards. Since reforestation programs began in 1930, government and private industry have planted well over seven billion trees in the province.
Forest companies have been legally required to reforest the areas that they harvest since 1987. About half of all reforestation expenditures in Canada occur in B.C. with more than 200 million seedlings planted every year to supplement natural regrowth.