California Governor Gavin Newsom currently has on his desk a state procurement bill (AB 416) that threatens Canadian forestry jobs as well as a recently tabled and critical State social housing initiative.
Forest Products Association of Canada (FPAC) and the United Steelworkers (USW) fully support the legislation’s laudable intention to ensure that wood products are responsibly sourced from sustainably managed forests. Our concern is that AB 416 – if not vetoed by Governor Newsom – will make it more difficult for the State of California to address affordable housing needs and puts Canadian jobs at risk in the process. At a time when governments around the world are investing in community infrastructure, the bill will limit competition and wood supply while increasing the cost of sustainably sourced wood from leading markets like Canada.
We are also concerned that the bill will impact Canadian forestry jobs by driving State procurement decisions to markets that don’t enjoy Canada’s robust commitment to sustainable forest management, family-supporting wages, and health and safety protections.
Canada is a world-leader in sustainable forest management. Our sector has an opportunity to use forest management as a tool to fight climate change and keep communities safer from worsening fire patterns. At the same time - the use of long-lived wood products that store carbon (such as in buildings), further contributes to a low-carbon economy.
Our workers are proud to be part of a sector that is built upon key principles that include ecosystems-based management, engagement with local rightsholders and stakeholders, limiting annual harvests to less than 0.5% of harvestable forests, and replacing more than what’s harvested to ensure that Canadian forests remain as forests forever.
We believe that California and Canada share common interests in building back a post-pandemic economy that’s greener and more inclusive. This bill stands in the way of that by creating unintended consequences that puts Canadian forestry jobs at risk and will drive costs up for Californians who are already facing an affordable housing crisis.
Derek Nighbor is the President and CEO of Forest Products Association of Canada
Jeff Bromley is the Wood Council Chair for the United Steelworkers Union