UCP pledges support for secure, sustainable harvesting, more cash to fight mountain pine beetle
SLAVE LAKE, AB: Alberta’s forest companies and workers are world leaders in sustainable forestry practices and in managing Alberta’s land base for future generations. Forestry is also the province’s third largest resource sector after oil and gas, directly providing jobs for 16,000 Albertans and indirectly for 23,000 more.
Yet, the industry faces many of the same difficulties and threats as oil and gas. It is poorly supported by this NDP government, and vulnerable to the same kind of dishonest activist campaigns that have disrupted Alberta’s oil sands.
United Conservative candidate for Athabasca-Barrhead-Westlock Glenn van Dijken today announced that a UCP government would stand up for Alberta’s forestry workers:
“We will protect, promote and partner with Alberta’s forestry workers and with Alberta forest companies to expand this sector’s economic opportunities at home and abroad. We will ensure that the industry has long-term sustainable access to fibre. We will stand with you against foreign-funded attacks on your industry, to see that you get the respect and security you deserve. And we will help you market your products.”
Mr. van Dijken called out the NDP government for restricting timber access, over-regulation, failure to deal with the pine beetle invasion, and not preparing for more foreign-funded activism—now against forestry, as with anti-energy advocacy— to supersede the common-sense conservation essential to a healthy forest and a healthy economy.
“It looks almost like a cultural disconnect between this industry and the NDP,” he said. “I get the sense they just don’t like people who harvest timber. It doesn’t matter that we build houses out of wood: One of the first things the NDP did when they took power was to stop logging in the Castle area, in southwest Alberta. They also kicked out oil and gas there, too. Instead of tackling the pine beetle that’s ruining hundreds of square kilometres of Alberta forests, they’ve cut back funding for that and now they want to permanently close access to 4.5 million acres in west central and northwest Alberta, for small caribou herds.”
He added that the caribou closure was initially driven by the need to comply with federal regulations.
“However, the NDP’s plan was made with virtually no consideration of the impact on communities or jobs in the affected communities or industries. It has created massive uncertainty that is threatening the future of many in Northwest Alberta. But that’s the way the NDP seems to engage with Alberta’s development industries.”
Mr. van Dijken said a UCP government would set up a Caribou Range Task Force to review the NDP’s Alberta Caribou Draft Plan. The task force would bring together local municipal governments, the Northwest Species at Risk Committee, forestry and other industries, Indigenous representatives, habitat scientists, and others.
“It is essential that forest companies have long-term access to a sustainable secure fibre supply. With our Forest Jobs Guarantee, that’s what a UCP government would do,” continued van Dijken. “Access to fibre through current quotas and forest management agreements will be protected and any federally or court-ordered policies that inhibit access to fibre – such as the caribou range – will be offset with new access to an equal or larger area for forestry in the same region.”
He also promised that the newly-established Minister of Red Tape Reduction would work with forestry companies and their workers on stable, strategic, outcome-based regulations to preserve Alberta’s working forests for future generations. A UCP government would also reverse four years of NDP reductions in the fight against the Mountain Pine Beetle epidemic. Funding would be raised by $5 million annually to $30 million (from $25 million annually now).
“And we will work with federal government ministries to see that Ottawa contributes its proper share to fighting the infestation.”
He promised Alberta would also work with Ottawa to fight for Alberta’s proper national share of trade-allocated export quotas, and to ensure that Alberta’s foreign trade offices worked with Alberta’s forestry sector to maximize market expansion possibilities, especially in Asia.
“We need to get behind our foresters,” said van Dijken. “For Albertans, this is a vital industry. We have seen what happens in other parts of the country when foreign-funded activists start undermining perfectly responsible resource companies going about their legal business. So, we need to be ready to be industry champions for our own forest industry, and if necessary, to follow the lead of the brave forestry company Resolute Forest Products, which stands up to bullying by suing (environmental advocate) Greenpeace for defamation.”
Alberta’s 100-year-old forestry sector is critical to both Alberta’s future diversification efforts and to future renewable energy efforts including the potential for biomass and bio-energy. Alberta’s advanced, responsible forestry practices are positive for the environment, reduce the incidence of forest fires, and maintain high carbon sequestration.