Quesnel is hosting a two-day Future of Forestry Think Tank this week, with more than 70 delegates in attendance.
The Think Tank has attracted forestry sector professionals from all of Quesnel’s wood products companies, plus the Honourable Doug Donaldson from the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resources Operations and Rural Development. Other representatives are attending from University of Northern British Columbia, University of British Columbia, Council of Forest Industries, FP Innovations and the Forest Enhancement Society.
The technical working session aims to explore opportunities to use Quesnel as an incubator to accelerate research and development in the domains of alternative forest management and innovative manufacturing and processing of forest fibre.
Policy-makers, researchers and industry experts descended on Quesnel’s College of New Caledenia campus this afternoon to begin the sessions.
In his opening remarks, Quesnel Mayor Bob Simpson said Quesnel is the best place to hold such a think tank due to its concentration of manufacturing facilities.
“We have everything from growing tress to lumber manufacturing to value-added remand, to pulp mills to MDF. We have everything here from a perspective of research and development.”
Minister Donaldson agreed, after being taken on a tour of some of Quesnel’s facilities.
“Quesnel is well-positioned to take advantage of any new trends and help influence policy. I just visited C&C [Wood Products] and West Fraser’s MDF plant and sawmill and I’m really impressed with the diversification of the utilization for fibre.
“We know there are challenges ahead with the reduced fibre availability after the mountain pine beetle and the wildfire impacts, so these are the topics we’ve been putting a lot of thought into in our first nine months in government, and the Think Tank that we are seeing here today is going to advance those thoughts,” he commented.
Simpson said Quesnel could act as an incubator for the wider provincial industry.
“Trying to solve this problem at the provincial level is almost a non starter. If you bring it down and locate it in an area where you can do some experimenting, some research, some thinking, at a level of scale that allows you to potentially get to some solutions, you can then extrapolate up to the rest of the province,” he said.
Donaldson believes the key may be in how we view our use of the forest.
“I think, overall, that rethinking what a forest in a communiity is is important for the future. We’ve got really efficient dimensional lumber mills in Quesnel and elsewhere, and we know the forest provides in a lot of other ways for forest-dependent communities – through wildlife, through other utilisation of forest fibre, for non-botanical forest products. The challenge ahead of us is to rethink how forests support communities. And that’s what this is about.”
The Think Tank sessions will cover topics including climate change, future forest fibre, processing opportunities, workforce vulnerabilities and more.