By Fran Yanor, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

About 500 demonstrators from forest-dependent communities, were at the Legislature last week to present an 8,000-signature petition to protect the harvestable timber land base.

Members and supporters of the BC Forest Alliance drove a convoy of logging trucks to the BC Legislature last week to spotlight the forest industry and the need to protect a portion of forests for harvesting by local communities.

“We’re here to ask for the protection of our working forest in perpetuity,” said Port McNeill mayor Gaby Wickstrom, addressing the crowd. “We need it protected not only for the jobs it provides but for the revenue it generates for the entire province.”

Doug Donaldson, Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, and Rural Development addressed demonstrators saying “workers in the communities”¦ have to benefit from the forests.”

The forestry sector employs more than 50,000 people and exported nearly $15 billion worth of products in 2018, according to the B.C. government website. Every year, a significant portion of timber is harvested from old growth forests. The provincial government is in the midst of reviewing its old growth timber harvesting strategy.

“I commit today that before any recommendations from that process are implemented I will be going out to communities”¦ to gather input on any kind of recommendations that come from that report,” B.C. Forests Minister

Doug Donaldson told the crowd. “First and foremost, forests in BC must be managed for the people in the communities that live nearby, and the workers that derive their income”¦ from the activities in the forests.”