Natural Resources

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Commodity Report: B.C.’s Lumber Industry

With its vast rangelands and verdant forests, 
British Columbia is home to enormous 
amounts of exceptional timber.

One of the world’s largest exporters of wood fibre, B.C. is Canada’s leading supplier of wood construction and finishing wood products. The province is also a global leader in sustainable forest management.

British Columbia’s forest sector has been the cornerstone of the province’s economy for more than a century. When B.C. entered confederation in 1871, its reputation for high-quality timber was a major boost to Canada as a whole. Then, as it is now, the province was recognized around the world as a superior source of timber. 

With a strong history as a vital, active industry, the sector is well positioned for a successful future. A major player in the international forestry sector, B.C. has 55 million hectares of public forestland. The province is the world’s largest exporter of softwood lumber to international markets.

The United States is the most important forest-product export destination for B.C., followed by China, Japan, the European Union and other markets.

Those markets are hungry for the tremendous range of products that the B.C. forest industry offers. These include commodities (such as pulp and paper), value-added products (like engineered wood products, timber-frame homes, shingles and mouldings) and next-generation products, including biochemicals and bioenergy alternatives.

New opportunities are also arising: underutilized species, smaller stems and mill residue have value as raw materials for those next-generation products. As a result, the sector is becoming increasingly diversified.

B.C.’s forests are as varied as they are abundant. There are 40 different species of trees. Western hemlock, western red cedar and Douglas fir are found in the temperate rainforests of the Pacific Coast, while pines and spruces exist in the dry and cooler forests of the province’s interior.

Forest sustainability is a guiding principle in the management of B.C. forests. With First Nations becoming partners in forestry, British Columbia has more land certified to internationally recognized environmental standards than any other jurisdiction, a feature that’s of growing importance to consumers everywhere.

B.C. is unique among the world’s leading forest producers because 95 per cent of its land base is publicly owned, and forest activities on this land must follow strict forest-management laws. Crucial to the industry are innovative, best practices.

The industry generates $9.07 billion in economic activity for the province each year. B.C. has a highly skilled lumber workforce, with the forest sector accounting for 9.2 per cent of all economic activity in 2009.

Strategically located on Canada’s Pacific Coast, the industry is fully integrated with extensive port, rail and road transportation systems, allowing for easy access to global markets. 

Strength in Numbers

In 2012, there were approximately 56,000 workers in B.C.’s forest 
industry, a six per cent increase 
from the previous year

The industry is growing with direct and indirect employment estimated at 170,000 workers
B.C. has more than 5,400 registered professionals qualified in forest management