The Ontario government hopes that a new forestry strategy, announced this morning at Columbia Forest Products in Rutherglen, will create jobs and encourage economic growth in the forest industry.
The plan. called "Sustainable Growth: Ontario's Forest Sector Strategy," is designed to support the "Indigenous, northern and rural communities that depend on the sector, while ensuring the province's forests stay healthy for generations to come," said John Yakabuski, Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry.
See: Province unveils forestry strategy
"At the same time, we are taking steps to protect our forests. Ontario's sustainable forest management practices are based on the most up-to-date science and are continuously reviewed and improved to ensure the long-term health of our forests while providing social, economic, and environmental benefits for everyone across the province," added Yakabuski.
"The fundamental pillar of the strategy is the promotion of stewardship and sustainability, recognizing the importance of keeping Crown forests healthy, diverse, and productive so Ontario's forest industry can remain viable over the long term. The strategy also focusses on the importance of putting more wood to work, improving cost competitiveness, and fostering innovation, new markets, and talent," says an accompanying news release.
Ontario's forest sector plants approximately 73 million trees annually and drops an additional 365 million seeds aerially on harvested Crown lands to help regenerate forests. The province has 71 million hectares of forest, of which 27.7 million hectares are managed Crown forests. Less than half of one per cent of managed Crown forests are harvested each year according to the release.
An Advisory Committee will be tasked with developing and overseeing an implementation plan.
“Ontario’s forestry industry is among the best in the world, and it employs about 147,000 people in the province," said Nipissing MPP Vic Fedeli. "This strategy will strengthen the sector even further so it can continue to grow and create good jobs for years to come.”Ontario's Minister of Northern Development Greg Rickford said, "Our government is making targeted investments in the forest sector, creating jobs and stimulating economic growth and prosperity for the people of northern Ontario today and into the future.”However, no help for Columbia Forest Products was mentioned in the announcement. The company has struggled in recent years and closed for an extended period in 2010. This spring, roof problems also caused a shutdown, and employees were evacuated from the plant.See: Columbia Forest Products hoping to re-open soonAnd: Columbia Forest Products to reopen Rutherglen Hardwood Veneer PlantHowever, the announcement drew praise from Jamie Lim, President of the Ontario Forest Industries Association."We are pleased that today, the Ontario government has committed to unleashing the full potential of Ontario’s forest sector. We look forward to working with Minister Yakabuski to implement a bold and ambitious Forest Sector Strategy, aimed at making Ontario a leading international jurisdiction. "Bingwi Neyaashi Anishinaabek is looking forward to working with Minister Yakabuski and his staff to implement many of the key actions outlined in the Forest Sector Strategy," said Chief Joe Ladouceur. "We feel that this will help us grow and strengthen our sawmill, which operates on our reserve lands, employing First Nation members, as well as Lake Nipigon Forest Management Inc. and our contracting company Four Nations Forestry, which we run with our First Nation neighbours."
Stu Campaigne, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, BayToday.ca