The red alder resource in British Columbia has the potential to support a future hardwood manufacturing sector over 10 times larger and considerably more diverse than the current condition. Three quarters of this increase is possible simply by managing the existing red alder resource to an intensity similar to that for conifers, with the remainder of the increase relying on climate change adaptation to take advantage of potentially improved future growing conditions. Increased harvest rates would provide the Province with commensurate social benefits in terms of jobs, taxes, and royalties. Additional benefits of increased management attention would be realized through improved ecosystem resiliency and the contributions that red alder makes to a wide variety of ecosystem services.
Ultimately, most of the benefits to society would come from the manufacturing of lumber and secondary products. In order to develop this sector, investors need confidence that they will have competitive access to a long-term supply of raw materials. Several initiatives are required to both build that capacity and to signal investors that Government fully recognizes the value in this sector. These initiatives include:
- commitments in management unit plans to manage red alder, including targets for long-term production,
- determination of alder harvest levels in the Timber Supply Review process,
- improvements in alder inventory information and data that affect industrial access to the alder resource,
- a program of genetic management to support facilitated migration and, if financially viable, traditional tree breeding, and
- development of a competitive log market.
In light of the uncertainty and potential instability introduced to the forest products industry by climate change, it seems prudent to aggressively pursue opportunities for diversifying and increasing the resilience of the forest resource as a critical economic engine for the Province wherever possible and practical. The hardwood sector, while currently a small component of the overall industry in British Columbia, offers just such a possibility.
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Updated January 23, 2013