Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The State of British Columbia's Forests

The State of BC's Forest, the 2010 edition has been released by the Ministry of Forests, Mines and Lands. (Click on the title block to view the report).

The reports authors and contributors are to be commended on compiling the considerable information and statistics on BC's public forests contained in the report.

British Columbia owns most of its forests and has jurisdiction over them. The Montreal Process is an international forest sustainability assessment process intended to be applied to countries. It provides an independent scientific format that could be applied to BC. The State of the Forests report uses a different format but does reference the Montreal Process indicators. The State of the Forests Report is similar to other forest assessment and certification schemes in trying to draw credence from the international scientific standard. However,the comprehensive assessment of the Montreal Process is avoided in favor of producing a public relations facade.

The Montreal Process has a section devoted to the examination of the legal and institutional framework to determine if it supports sustainable forest management. Most of the problems with forest stewardship in BC originate in the forest management framework. Our State of the Forests report's examination under the heading of "Law" makes the bold assertion that "BC's forest law enables and supports sustainable forest management". This is little more than a public relations effort to make the public feel assured and secure. If we scratch below the surface of BC's legal and institutional framework using the Montreal Process a different conclusion emerges.

British Columbia does have a very strong foundation for good forest stewardship. We decided, one hundred years ago, to retain our forests in public ownership to ensure good stewardship that would result in sustainable forest communities and industry. We own the forest to ensure stewardship. Clarity of tenure is important. Our present legal and institutional framework undermines this foundation. We have a Forest Act that grants harvesting rights to forest companies. Harvesting rights are not a good arrangement to ensure good stewardship. The Ministry of Forests was intended to be the independent professional manager of our public forests. Instead, increasing forest management responsibilities have been handed over to forest corporations. There is little clarity of tenure. We are in a process of gradual enclosure of our public forests into the private interest. Management of forests by forest companies or timber interests is not conducive to the management of non timber forest products and nature based enterprises. Allocation of public timber on a non market basis to commodity producing forest corporations has restricted the diversity of wood manufacture in BC and made our forest products vulnerable to discriminatory trade tariffs and export taxes. We have a good foundation for sustainable forest management in our public forests but our laws have been undermining that foundation.

Page 54 of the report notes, "The current mountain pine beetle epidemic, enabled in part by climate change,increased rapidly after 1997 to peak at over 10 million hectares in 2007". The public is always served the climate change story and the account omits the other parts or factors involved in the story. The other major part of the story, always omitted, is that huge areas or lodgepole pine was allowed to grow old and susceptible to mountain pine beetle attack. The Ministry of Forests fought fires and saved lots of lodge pole pine. Meanwhile their forest industry partners in forest management were avoiding the harvest of pine. The partners in management of our public forests, central government and forest corporations prepared a huge area of mountain pine beetle habitat. No wonder the other part of the story is avoided. It cost us about $100 Billion in economic losses.

The Ministry of Forests,Mines and Lands State of the Forests report is a typical in house public relations production designed to create the impression that "all is well" with forest sustainability. The state of the forest industry, forest dependent communities indicates that all may not be well and some major improvement is needed.

1 comment:

  1. How true. Time to re-visit tenure and the public interest. Forest stewardship in British Columbia is a public disgrace. The government and forest industry have deceived the public with empty rhetoric and spin that is finally wearing very thin but apparently still fools the international certifiers of sustainable forest management. Certifiers need to get on top of the true state of B.C.'s public forests and start to decertify forestlands that obviously are not being sustainably managed.

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