Monday, March 1, 2010

BC Communities and their relationship to the surrounding forest landscape

Our largest city, Vancouver, just hosted the 2010 Winter Olympic Games. This would not have been possible without nearby forested landscapes with snow and alpine conditions. The port of Vancouver does major trade in forest products. The city is a major supply center for the forest industry and is home to the corporate headquarters of several large forest companies.

Most residents of Vancouver do not feel closely connected to forest, other than the outstanding backdrop view of the North Shore landscape. First Nations Communities on the other hand, relied on the forest for everything. They saw the forest as their physical and spiritual home.

Smaller cities have a greater feeling of reliance on local forest landscapes. Towns like Port Alberni, Prince George, Terrace or Cranbrook have wood processing industries with a daily flow of logging trucks giving residents a daily reminder of the flow of economic sustenance from the surrounding forest landscape.

The economy of many BC cities and towns is closely connected to local forest landscapes. They supply timber, non timber forest products and provide the nature based activities and natural conditions that make BC so special.

Relationships are a two way affair. Many communities depend on their surrounding Crown or Public forest landscapes. It seems natural the local communities should have a part in the care and stewardship of these landscapes. A good two way relationship should result in sustainability of the forest and the local community.

Unfortunately the legal and institutional arrangements for management of public forests in BC more or less exclude local communities from direct participation in the stewardship of local landscapes. First Nations communities that once relied on forest landscapes for almost everything were cut out of most benefits of the forest. Management of public forests is a centralized affair in BC. A management partnership of the BC Government, Ministry of Forests headquartered in Victoria, and forest corporations often situated in distant centers like Vancouver look after the forests of the hinterland.

The Crown or Public forests of BC were intended to ensure sustainable forest dependent communities and a healthy forest products industry. Many BC towns and cities in BC are facing a decline in their forest economy and the forest industry is in sad shape. The problems are more deep seated than just the present poor market and economic conditions. There are serious forest stewardship issues that have their roots in the the centralized arrangements for managing public forests and the management partnership of Government and Forest Corporations. We will look at the problems and solutions that involve much greater local participation of local communities in future posts.

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