Employment and Economic Values
The forest sector has long been an important contributor to B.C.’s economy. While B.C.’s economy matures and diversifies, the forest industry remains significant.
The sector consists of a number of separate but inter-connected activities, such as: planning, planting, and forest management; road-building and harvesting; wood product manufacturing (primary and secondary); pulp, paper and bio-refining; and forest product marketing.
In 2018, the forest sector was responsible for $14.9 billion of B.C.’s total exports and it is the primary employer in many parts of the province. Forestry-related activities directly support over 7,000 businesses and employs over 50,000 people.
Forest products represent 32% of B.C.’s commodity exports. B.C. sells 90% of its forest products to international markets.
The Province also continues encouraging the advancement of wood use in architectural and structural applications to demonstrate that B.C. is a leading supplier of innovative wood-based products and building systems.
Revenue from the harvesting of trees and the production of forest products fund infrastructure and government services that British Columbians depend on. In 2018-19, the B.C. government reported that $1.4 billion in government revenue was attributable to the forest sector.
Old-growth trees are used to make lumber, wood pellets, pulp and paper, and many specialized forest products. Old-growth cedar trees are particularly valuable to certain sectors of the forest industry. For example, some shake and shingle manufacturers use old-growth cedar trees. Nine sawmills on Vancouver Island identify as “cedar only” mills. A reduction in the availability of cedar old growth could have a more significant economic impact on lumber and mill production than a reduction in the availability of non-cedar old-growth trees.
On B.C.’s Coast, old-growth forests that are older than 250 years comprise an important part of the forest economy and contribute about 50% of the timber harvesting land base. The production of specialty forestry products (such as cedar shakes and shingles) depends on timber from these unique forest types. Dependence on old-growth trees varies throughout the coastal region. More northerly areas (such as Port McNeil) are heavily dependent on the old-growth timber profile awaiting second-growth areas to reach a harvestable age, whereas the southern units (such as the Sunshine Coast and the west coast near Sooke) have a more robust second-growth forest structure that supplies much of the industry’s timber needs.
A key landscape-level biodiversity consideration is to maintain forests that mimic important characteristics of natural forest conditions, such as a wide range of forest age classes. Because of this, a mix of stand types and ages is harvested to match the current timber profile on the land base and to ensure a sustainable timber supply for decades to come.
Old-growth forests also have significant economic and cultural value, as a tourism and recreation resource. Old-growth forests in B.C. attract visitors from around the world. For example, Cathedral Grove (located in MacMillan Provincial Park) is one of the most accessible stands of old-growth Douglas fir trees on Vancouver Island.