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B.C. BUDGET: Province braces for shrinking forest industry, new lands ministry

Timber revenues fall as old-growth preservation continues
B.C. is creating a new ministry for Indigenous-led management of land and water. (B.C. government photo)

The B.C. government is preparing for falling revenues and rising unemployment in the wood products industry as it works toward Indigenous-led forest management with greater protection of old and rare forests.

Projections in Tuesday’s B.C. budget show a decline in provincial revenue from timber cutting, from $1.8 billion in the current year to $1.1 billion in 2024-25. The drop is mainly as a result of province-wide deferrals of harvesting in areas identified as rare and threatened old-growth forests, Finance Minister Selina Robinson said Feb. 22.

The budget includes $182 million over three years to “support forestry workers and communities affected by old-growth logging deferrals,” the finance ministry said in a statement. “This includes connecting workers with short-term employment opportunities and providing education and skills training for community members.”

The fund also includes money for partnerships with business through economic and infrastructure projects, and a “bridging to retirement” program with up to $75,000 for eligible forestry workers and contractors aged 55 and older.

Another $44 million is set aside to create a new ministry of lands, water and resource stewardship, split off from the current forests ministry.

“The ministry will have a leadership role working with Indigenous governments and organizations to develop a new vision and new policies for land, water and resource management to bring government’s natural resource policy framework in line with the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act,” the ministry said.

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