Clearwater was historically one of the highest forest dependent communities in British Columbia. In 2001 forestry dependency for the Clearwater area saw 39% of all income derived locally come from the forest sector, at the time making it among the highest dependencies in British Columbia. Over the past several decades, Clearwater has seen a series of large mill closures. In 1987, Slocan Forest Products Ltd. Clearwater Timber Products closed the Camp 2 sawmill and planer mill on the Flats in Clearwater consolidating processing at their Vavenby operations.
When the BC Liberals were elected in 2001, they eliminated appurtenancy — a condition that required companies to operate mills and provide regional employment in order to harvest the province’s timber. Shortly after appurtenancy was removed, in 2003, the Weyerhaesuer Mill in Clearwater closed. Indeed, since the removal of appurtenancy requirements there has been many mills closed across the province and the large companies have sold and exchanged forest licenses for publicly owned timber like they were private property.
In 2019, Canfor mill, the last large sawmill in the Clearwater closed and with the sale of the harvesting rights to Interfor, wood is now leaving the valley as never before. Despite the mill closures over the years the logging sector has remained strong in Clearwater. In 2016, the most recent Census, 30% of all income in the Clearwater area was still derived from the forest sector and a total local labour force of 225 was associated with logging and forestry. However, with the shift of the Canfor license to Interfor, there is serious concern that this last major source of forestry employment will be lost.
The province has witnessed repeated and on-going forestry job losses in rural British Columbia and some point the government needs to step up and begin working with rural communities to preserve what is left of the logging and forestry sector and begin serious efforts to rebuilding a forestry processing sector that is willing to work and invest locally. In the case of Clearwater immediate proactive action is required to prevent forestry and logging from being eliminated from the community all together as well and ensure those workers that have worked the forest lands around Clearwater continue to see meaningful employment in their own backyard.