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Northern B.C. leaders offer insights on forestry industry at Vancouver conference

Vanderhoof Councillor Brian Frenkel and Prince George Mayor Simon Yu on COFI conference panel

Last week, local government officials from northern B.C. seized the opportunity to share their viewpoints on the forestry industry during a conference held in Vancouver.

Vanderhoof Councillor Brian Frenkel and Prince George Mayor Simon Yu joined a panel at the BC Council of Forest Industries (COFI) conference on April 12, addressing how local governments have managed industry changes over the years and also discussed the future of forestry industry.

Moderated by Vancouver Councillor Lisa Dominato, the panel also featured Campbell River Councillor Susan Sinnott, who discussed reconciliation and collaboration with local Indigenous leaders to advance the forestry sector on Vancouver Island.

The panelists discussed enhancing the narrative surrounding the forest industry, exploring zero-carbon partnerships, and utilising artificial intelligence (AI) among other issues.

Yu stressed the importance of crafting an attractive narrative to attract young professionals to the forestry industry, noting that 50 per cent of current workers are aged 55. He highlighted the need for rejuvenation to prevent sector stagnation and loss.

Yu suggested diversifying into the energy sector and reframing the industry narrative around forestry enhancement.

Referencing existing technology, Yu mentioned investigating the potential of converting felled trees into energy sources like electricity. He also called for authorities to examine reasons for high log costs and expressed concerns about mill closures impacting the forestry-dependent tax base.

With 41 years of forestry experience and two decades in local government, Frenkel provided dual perspectives at the conference and noted that forest management will play a key role in navigating climate change.

Frenkel discussed critical aspects of forestry and local governance, emphasising the importance of anticipating changes, particularly climate change’s impact on forestry practices.

He advocated for using AI to mitigate wildfire risks and reevaluating methods like pine plantation for forward-thinking land management amidst climate change.

Frenkel urged Premier David Eby to significantly expand the community forest program and collaborate with Indigenous groups while educating communities on fire prevention strategies.

Similarly, Yu called on Eby to consider insights from industry representatives, local government officials, and unions, emphasising the opportunity for the forest industry to utilise bioresources effectively.

About the Author: Binny Paul

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