Sunday, July 4, 2010

Local forest management unit

BC needs to move from its complex and cumbersome system of attempting to manage private entitlements in Public forests. The forest is entitled to good independent forest management. We should remember that we kept our forests in Public ownership to ensure that they would be provided with a wise system of independent forest management. Sustainable stewardship is a prerequisite to a healthy forest industry. It is the true bottom line and our forest industry is suffering because we did not stay on track with the original objective of establishing a wise system of independent forest management.

It is time to look a direct independent management of our public forests. They are public assets and should be managed in a business like manner.

The Local forest management unit is the fundamental building block of a wise system of forest management. It would be a forest landscape or geographic area of forest, probably greater than 100,000 hectares in area. It should be large enough to be operated as a profitable business unit and support a forest management staff.

A forest comprises land, biological and ecosystem processes that interact with climate. In BC, the land is often complex mountainous terrain. A local forest management staff will be better placed to develop an understanding of the local forest ecosystem and manage to sustain its productivity. Their focus is the local landscape and they will build a system of maps and information that will be used for long term planning and adaptive management. The focus and the effort goes into actual management of the forest.

The local forest management staff would be hands-on managers rather than distant administrators. They would not be allowed to delegate forest management responsibilities to forest companies. Small woodlot operations, non timber forest products and nature based local economic enterprises would be encouraged. These other activities would be included in the sustainable forest plan.

The local forest management staff would operate the forest like a sustainable business. They would have the good sense to ensure that all the best timber on the most accessible parts of the forest is not logged all at once. This is one of the most significant causes of the present problems in the coastal forest industry. They would also be aware of species and stand of trees that are likely to become susceptible to diseases due to age or other factors and harvest them before they are lost to disease. Failure to harvest enough ageing lodgepole pine in the interior of BC was the most significant factor in the present mountain pine beetle epidemic that is wasting $100 Billion in timber in the interior of BC.

The local forest management unit would have a stable staff, trained workers and some equipment to maintain roads and infrastructure and conduct silvicultural activities. Under the present system of entitlements, some of this work falls through the cracks. There are thousands of kilometers of decaying forest roads left with little or no maintenance after harvest. Although forest companies have to replant and see that a harvested area regenerates, this arrangement does not provide for thinning or more complex stand tending needs of shelterwood or selection silvicultural systems.

Open market sale of timber from the local forest management unit will maintain existing wood processing plants while enabling new value wood processors to become established. Non timber and nature based enterprises in the local forest will add to the local economy. Our wood exports will be less vulnerable to export taxes. Our present system of entitlements with administered prices for timber is seen as subsidization by other countries. It is about time we also realized that our system of entitlements for managing our public forests is funny business.

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