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Forest Act changes good for industry communities: AFPA

Brock Mulligan says the province’s forest industry has so far come through the pandemic very well on a financial basis

SUNDRE - Recent changes to the provincial Forest Act and related regulations are positive for communities that depend on forestry, including Sundre, says Brock Mulligan, vice-president of the Alberta Forest Products Association (AFPA).

“We think it’s good news for our industry because it makes a number of changes to give more flexibility for forest companies to deal with some of the challenges we have on the land base, whether that’s pests or fires or some of those types of instances,” Mulligan said in an Albertan interview.

“When you look at the Forest Act and the way our forests are managed here in Alberta, they work hand in hand really well. We have a system of forest management and sustainability that is really second to none.”

Another positive coming out of the update is the fact the legislation’s preamble now “recognizes that our practices are world-leading and the importance of forestry to our economy. There are also a number of red tape cleanups that really benefit job creators by making everyone’s life a little bit easier,” he said.

The AFPA is a non-profit association representing companies manufacturing lumber, panelboard, pulp and paper, and secondary manufactured wood products.

The Forest Act defines the powers to establish regulations related to forestry and provides for the establishment of forest tenure or right to harvest Crown timber.

The government says the amendments set timber dues in a more timely fashion so that the fees forestry companies pay government in exchange for being allowed to cut down trees on Crown land better reflect current market and industry costs.

As well, the government says the amendments give companies more flexibility in deciding when to harvest those trees they have been given access to, and cuts unnecessary red tape for forest tenure holders, encouraging innovation and advanced practices.

The changes came following consultations with forestry companies, Indigenous communities, and other stakeholders.

Devin Dreeshen is the minister of Agriculture and Forestry and the MLA for Innisfail-Sylvan Lake.

“At a time when mills across North America are experiencing uncertainty, these important changes increase our forest sector’s competitiveness and lay the foundation for generations of growth,” Dreeshen said in a press release.

Meanwhile, Mulligan says the province’s forest industry has so far come through the pandemic very well on a financial basis.

“Heading into COVID we were really nervous about how things were going to go and there was a lot of trepidation around our industry,” Mulligan said. “What we’ve seen, and it surprised us, is that markets, particularly on the lumber side has been booming. We have record prices and demand across North America that is very strong. 

“That is really good news for people in communities like Sundre where COVID has caused some definite negative impacts but the forest industry has been a real bright spot.

“Demand has been really strong and what we are finding is that people who are working from home now and maybe not spending money on things like travel have chosen to improve their homes or more into bigger homes and all of that is making lumber demand stronger than it has ever has been.”

Forestry contributed more than $2.5 billion to the provincial gross domestic product in 2020.