2020 is the 100-year anniversary of Canadian National Forest Week, which was first introduced in 1920 as ‘Forest Fire Prevention Week’, at a time when the biggest threat to Canadian timber was human-caused wildfires. Renamed National Forest Week in 1967, with BC National Forest Week launching in 2013, we will take a look back at a century of forest conservation and preservation with this year’s theme of ‘Healthy Forests – Healthy Future’.

Even before European settlers arrived in British Columbia, trees were an important resource for Indigenous people, who used various species for totem poles and wood carvings, longhouses, sweat lodge frames, canoes, baskets, and firewood.

Historical records indicate that in 1778, after facing a long overseas journey that wreaked havoc on the timbers of his ship, Captain James Cook and his men cut logs for new masts and spars on Vancouver Island.

A decade later it is believed that John Meares, a fur trader, engaged in the first European timber trading from Canadian soil by taking a load of spars along with his furs to China, where they were intended for use on British ships of war.

For more than a century, forestry has played an important role in BC. Not only in economic terms, but culturally as well. British Columbia’s Men of the Woods were brought from every corner of the world to harvest the province’s famed tall timber. They came from England, Germany, Ukraine, Russia, Norway, France and all points in between, sitting down as equals at the cookshack tables – where they often ate up to 8,000 calories per day in order to perform their physically demanding work.

The logging camps spawned sawmills, which encouraged homes that bloomed into towns which became communities. From Mackenzie to Port McNeill to Kaslo, timber built BC – both literally and figuratively.

In this supplement we celebrate the forest industry, and what it has done for our community. Merritt has always been a town driven by natural resource extraction, with sawmills being the bulk of the economy and the number one employer for many years, even as forestry in BC faces another one of its downturns in the boom and bust cycle.

Generations of Merrittonians have been supported by Timber Dollars, and ‘Healthy Forests – Healthy Future’ will ensure this continues for many more years.