Resilience is region's greatest strength

B.C. forests have been hit hard in so many ways, from past years' fires, timber supply, allowable cut, pine beetle, spraying, caribou protection plans, tariffs, loss of a softwood lumber agreement, political pressures, and more.

Systems are designed for the outcomes achieved. Our forests are in trouble - environmentally and systemically. How does every facet work together to achieve a balance in the industry? Globalization is also a contributor to these opposing market forces.

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Aug. 9 was the last day of work for the Louisiana Pacific OSB mill in Fort St. John. Northern B.C. is reported to be home to 39 per cent of pulp and paper mills, 55 per cent of the province's sawmills, 79 per cent of pellet mills, and 45 per cent of veneer plywood and panel mills. Northern economies depend on forestry.

The State of Forestry in Northern BC reported by Northern Development Initiative Trust reports that one in five jobs in Northern B.C. are tied to the forestry sector. That report goes on to indicate that, as of July 10, with four mill closures, there were 710 direct jobs affected, which impacts an estimated 1,500 indirect jobs and an estimated annual payroll of $40 million.

The payroll loss due to curtailment is an estimated $175,000 per week per mill.

One thing that is for certain in the north is there will be ups and downs. The challenge is balancing the ups and downs between resource industries. Slow, steady sustainable growth offers more stability than the boom-bust we are accustomed to in the north.

We have a strong community and we are resilient. Contractors will need to react quickly to remain competitive for a smaller market share. Larger organizations will need to downsize to cut unnecessary costs. The fallout in the community trickles into the service shops, the supply stores and retail sector. It is a time for tightening the belt and spending less for the forest industry and their employees.

I see small communities become more resilient. How do we support one another through economic hardship? Secondary jobs are now becoming the primary jobs. Stay at home dads are embracing an opportunity to better their family in ways never experienced. I look around my community and am constantly identifying opportunities for small businesses to thrive.

I personally have changed my spending habits. My preference is to shop/eat/support local. Sure, we all have the odd visit out of town, but it is no longer the weekly or monthly visit. Maybe you really aren't saving anything when you go out of town and overspend.

If memory serves from the Hydro project employee demand, we are entering a period that requires the most manpower. This will help offset some of the job losses. On the upside, there is a lot more resource activity and pipeline construction currently. These are temporary, short-term jobs... which we are quite familiar with.

No wimps allowed in the north. Ride the wave. Resilience rules.

-- Edwina Nearhood is a lifelong resident of Fort St. John.

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