We are always balancing environmental, social and economic values in the regions where we operate. Our business only survives – and thrives – by developing, building and maintaining strong relationships and a track record of responsible operation in the regions where we operate. Between 2016 – 2017 we planted more than 126 million seedlings as part of our reforestation programs, a portion of the 1.7 billion trees we have planted since the Company was founded.
The majority of our operations in Canada and the U.S. are in rural communities and in many of these places, we are the largest employer. In these areas, our operations provide important tax revenue streams to local municipalities and counties through property and business taxes to help fund essential services and infrastructure projects. Our dedicated employees are also drawn from these communities. Our facilities donate to more than 500 local community organizations every year.
We take our dedication to sustainable forest operations, our efforts in maintaining safe working environments and efficient, performance-based manufacturing processes very seriously. We also understand that operations of our size and scope come with significant responsibilities.
The ripple effect of our mills’ economic impact in our communities is much greater than the direct employees of our Company and the local taxes we remit. Our business depends on local third-party providers for services such as log purchases, logging, road building, reforestation, trucking and transportation. In Canada, the economic multiplier for the forest sector is the highest amongst natural resource industries; 1.35. Our business model is based on integrating contractors, small and local businesses and services to our mills, and this induces more jobs in the areas where our facilities are located.
In the U.S. and Canada, we contract hundreds of small and local business suppliers and contractors where we operate. Frequently, these relationships are long-term business partnerships built up over many seasons – and not infrequently decades – of working together. In the forest sector, on average every worker directly employed by West Fraser represents as many as two to three indirect and induced jobs in the wider community.
In Canada where we hold forest management licences, we participate in extensive public and stakeholder consultation about our forest planning, wildlife and habitat concerns, harvesting, reforestation and reclamation activities. Our actions are independently audited by the provincial governments in Alberta and British Columbia and through our forest management certifications. More information about our public and stakeholder consultation activities and forest planning is available in the Forest Management and Social Responsibility areas of our website Responsibility section. Our forest management activities also open up access for recreation in the forest, via the forestry roads we maintain and the campgrounds and trails we manage via collaborations like the Foothills Recreation Management Association in Hinton, Alberta.
Beyond meeting directly with key stakeholders, in many of our communities where we manage forests, our forestry plans are publicly available and we coordinate community open houses and public advisory groups where we operate to engage with the public with regard to our forest management planning and operations. In community open houses and through these public advisory groups we present and accept feedback about our sustainable forest management planning. This includes approaches to managing for forest values such as scenic views, recreation access, wildlife and habitat management, roads, conservation zones, fish and water as well as cultural heritage and historical sites, harvesting plans and reforestation operations.
Our donation program focuses on enhancing the quality of life in the communities where we operate, forest education, health & wellness and the pursuit of formal education. From 2015 – 2017, West Fraser has donated $3.2 million dollars in the U.S. and Canada. Because our employees live where they work, as a result they are frequently active participants as volunteers in their community organizations such as sports teams, social service organizations and as volunteer fire fighters.
We offer a number of scholarships and bursaries, including the Pete Ketcham Memorial Scholarship, for students in the communities and regions where we operate, and at educational institutions near our operations. Many of the scholarships available are listed in the "Training & Scholarships" page in the Careers section of our website.