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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Community stability and regional economic development: the role of forest policy in the North Central interior British Columbia Byron, Ronald Neil


Community stability in the sense of the long run survival of forest industry centres has often been declared an objective of public forest policy. It has been widely asserted that "community stability" can and does result from the practice of sustained yield forest management. Sustained yield also generally includes a requirement for an even annual flow of timber (equal to the annual growth). The implication is that stability of employment opportunities and incomes in the forest industry over shorter periods can also be attained as a result of the planned even flow of timber from the forests. This model of forest regulation has recently been defended and justified on this basis, particularly when criticism has been focussed on its obvious economic inefficiencies. It is argued here that even-flow regulations per se can not achieve the desired and anticipated effects on employment and incomes when the forest industry of a region produces primarily for a volatile export market and is also subject to economies of scale and location. However, in British Columbia, certain public policies and procedures introduced in the pursuit of technical objectives may have had substantial indirect effects on regional development and community stability through their influence on the corporate structure, geographic location and capital intensity of the forest industry. Qualitative and quantitative, (econometric) methods are used to analyse the socio-economic consequences of these changes, focusing particularly on employment - its stability, trends and location - within a defined region. It was found that the logging, processing, assembly-repair and service occupations are the most relatively unstable, and that the instability of total unemployment has been much greater in a single-industry town than a diversified city. Furthermore, employment instability in the primary wood-using industries was found to be correlated with changes in the price of lumber destined for Export markets. The conclusions emphasise that forest policies to regulate the short-run supply of timber from the provincial forests are not the most relevant to questions of stability of employment in the forest-related industries. The British Columbia forest Service does not have exclusive control over regional development or "community stability". This analysis suggests that not only reappraisal of Forest Service practices and procedures, but also of its objectives and capacity to fulfil them, is indeed long overdue. While the forest industry remains dominant in the regional economy, a wood products marketing agency or a price support scheme might contribute to community stability by buffering some of the exogenously induced shocks. However, for a number of reasons, it is considered that the most realistic prospects for attaining employment stability lie in the diversification of the regional economy. Since this cannot be accomplished costlessly, it remains to be decided by the political process how much community instability the people of British Columbia can afford and what steps they are prepared to take to attain more stability.

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