Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Local Forest Trusts

Local Forest Trusts are a much better alternative for BC's Public Forests. Our public forests have been subject to a gradual movement toward enclosure into the private interest for over sixty years. The next step is to place large areas of forest in Commercial Timber Reserves. Forest corporations will be able to lease these forests for the long term. Our Public Forests will serve the interests of forest corporations.

The alternative is for BC's forest dependent communities to assert their interest in sustainable stewardship of their surrounding landscapes. Local people can do a better job of sustaining their forests and local economies than central government in Victoria. The Local Forest Trust devolves control of forest management from central government and forest corporations to local communities.

The Local Forest Trust will not involve small piecemeal token allocations of public forest to communities. Instead these will involve full landscapes or several landscapes at a scale of hundreds of thousands of hectares. The intent is to have sufficient area to enable profitable forest operations and the hiring of forest management staff. A Local Forest Trust will probably include more than one community or rural area or district.

The Local Forest Trust will have a democratically elected board and professional forest managers and other staff. The local trusts will operate under a written trust document that will require the forest stewardship that meets the requirements of the Montreal Process, an international scientific agreement on sustainable forest management.

The board and managers of the Local Forest Trust will be responsible for profitable operation. Trusts will not be permitted to delegate forest management responsibilities through licences to forest companies. Family operated woodlot stewardship licences will be permitted. In addition, the Local Forest Trust will be expected to develop non-timber forest products and nature based economic activities either directly or through stewardship licences. Timber will be sold on an open market in log form, with the Local Forest Trust being responsible for road construction and harvesting. Local contractors will be involved in these activities.

Timber sold by the local forest trusts can be purchased by existing forest companies and other manufacturers interested in secondary wood products manufacture. Existing forest companies will not suffer under the new arrangements. The open market for public timber will result in removal of discriminatory export taxes and benefit existing industry.

The Local Forest Trust will not stand completely alone. A BC Forest Trust Assembly will audit and support Local Forest Trusts and provide a court of appeal. The BC Forest Trust Assembly will not be controlled by central government, but by elected and professional delegates from Local Forest Trusts. See the next blog for more on the Forest Trust Assembly.

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