Forest Industry

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
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.

Forest Sector Overview – Forestry Innovation Investment

Forest Sector Economics