As Minister of Forests and Range, I am always pleased to celebrate National Forest Week (Sept. 20-26)

This year’s theme, ‘Strong roots, green shoots: Innovation in forestry’, is particularly relevant.

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‘Strong roots’ is an apt description of forestry’s enduring importance to more than 300 communities across Canada. In British Columbia, forestry is the cornerstone of our manufacturing sector and provides a livelihood to more than 55,000 British Columbians.

‘Green shoots’ goes beyond reforestation and stewardship. It speaks to the importance of constantly renewing the very industry that supports our communities. It calls on us to nurture the growth of new products, new markets, and new opportunities. It is a reminder that innovation is the key to generating more wealth from our sustainably managed forests.

Nowhere is this effort more apparent than right here in British Columbia where we are focused on four key priorities: Improving utilization.

Through further manufacturing and bioenergy, we are working to extract more value from fibre previously considered waste or debris.

Becoming a world leader in growing trees. To generate on-the-ground activity in the near-term and increase the value of our forests over the long-term, we are developing new frameworks and strategies to attract investments in forest-based carbon offsets and other silviculture activities.

Increasing exports to China. In a few short years, China has emerged as one of B.C.’s most important lumber export markets. We will continue to pursue a marketing strategy that holds the promise of even more dramatic increases in the years ahead.

Implementing B.C.’s Wood First policy. A new Wood Design and Innovation Centre will help make B.C. a world leader in wood construction, design, engineering and education while new legislation will encourage all provincially-owned or provincially-funded buildings to use wood as their default building material, inside and out.

As we pursue these four priorities, we will maintain our commitment to forest stewardship, help increase the participation of First Nations in forestry, promote high safety standards, and work with industry to improve its competitiveness.

As it has for the past 100 years, British Columbia’s forest sector will continue to evolve and adapt. Through innovation, focus, and determination, it will continue to renew itself. And in so doing, it will continue to deliver enormous benefits for workers, communities and future generations.

EDITORS: A video clip of Minister Bell’s National Forest Week message is available at http://www.for.gov.bc.ca/pab/media/ .

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