Group applauds forest licence decision

Province not proceeding with volume-based forest licence.

The provincial Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations has decided to not proceed with legislative changes that would enable conversions of some current volume-based forest licences to area-based tree farm licences (TFLs).

British Columbia Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations Minister Steve Thomson announced the decision Aug. 28 in a statement on the recent release of a government proposed volume-based forest tenure to TFL report compiled by forester Jim Snetsinger. Thomson said in the statement the report stresses the need for strong First Nations and community support for any proposed expansion of area-based tenures and indicates any new proposals should incorporate measurable and verifiable public benefits.

Thomson goes on to state the report’s 35 recommendations give the government a road map on how to proceed, but given the recent Supreme Court of Canada Tsilhqot’in decision and requests from forest companies and communities to focus on other priorities the government would not move forward with legislative changes in fall 2014 or spring 2015.

Torrance Coste, Vancouver Island campaigner for environment group Wilderness Committee, said an area-based TFL has far less government oversight on where companies can cut compared to the current volume-based forest licence practice that includes more regulations on where trees can be chopped down. He said it is a good sign the government is not proceeding with the legislative changes, but the possibility of moving ahead again with conversions after spring 2015 is not what they’d prefer.

“We’d like to see area-based tenure expansion off the table for good,” said Coste, noting the government is simply placating the public with the delay. “In the report it said that there were many in favour of the changes the government was proposing and many opposed. It made it seem like it was close, but in reality we went through and counted them and there was 4200 comments posted online and 15 agreed with the government proposal.”

Snetsinger’s recommendations in the report place a heavy focus on addressing social licence issues if the government were to move ahead with the conversion including demonstrable and quantifiable public benefits, investments in enhanced silviculture activities to grow the annual cut, a commitment to an enhanced level of public engagement and a clear demonstration of strong local support for any conversion proposal.

The report also recommends in another of its 35 points that a detailed timber supply analysis should be completed at the proponent’s expense that demonstrates the area for the proposed tree farm licence will support an allowable annual cut that is in proportion with the allowable annual cut being surrendered through the volume-based forest licences and the general timber supply forecast, profile and logging chance compared to the timber supply area as a whole. It also states the analysis should demonstrate that the licensees in the remaining timber supply area are not unduly impacted.

Coste said a move to more land residing in area-based tender-ship on Vancouver Island has resulted in more mills closed and more raw log exports. He said this has to change to give B.C. forests a chance to recover from the high rate of cut over the last 50 years.

“If we’re exporting raw logs it’s the same as exporting jobs,” said Coste. “We have to be sending finished products and that means reopening mills.”

He said the delay at introducing legislative changes to move from volume-based forest licences to area-based TFLs should give people a chance to look at the Snetsinger report and make their own decision before next summer and that is exactly what the Wilderness Committee is going to be doing over the coming months.

“It would be nice to finish this and get the government to commit to a real forest strategy and listen to forest communities in terms of implementing forest management that will really be beneficial over the long term, so we don’t have to keep wasting time and energy fighting TFL expansion every couple years.”

To view Snetsinger’s report go to http://engage.gov.bc.ca/foresttenures