Saturday, September 3, 2011

Healthy Forests Healthy Communities

The Healthy Forests Healthy Communities initiative has already got feedback from some BC communities. Click on the title and check the website for dates of community dialogue sessions scheduled for the fall. Communities are giving a similar message. They are concerned about the management of local forest landscapes and want more control over their management.

The BC Government and forest corporations are likely to respond with some more community involvement within the present centralized management framework. Communities should not be duped and should realize that it is the present centralized forest management framework of the government and corporations that is the problem. The solution is not another facade of public involvement but some new devolved institutions that put communities in control of forest stewardship.

BC needs a new legal and institutional framework for sustainable forest management to replace the present poor arrangements that have already put our public forests on the track of enclosure into the private interest. We need two new building blocks.

Local Forest Trusts are the primary building block of a new framework. A local forest trust would manage an large area of forest landscape of sufficient size to provide for economic operation. It would have a board elected on a ward system from local communities and rural areas. A professional forest management staff would manage the forest to a charter or trust agreements that require management in accord with the Montreal Process standards. This means that the forest would be managed for timber, non timber and nature based economic and recreational benefits. Timber would be sold on an open market and the local forest trust would operate like a business. There would be no delegation of forest management responsibilities for anything larger than a family woodlot.

A Forest Trust Assembly is the companion institution that would exercise the Provincial interest by auditing and supporting local forest trusts and providing a court of appeal. It would be governed by an equal number of elected delegates and professional forest management delegates from local forest trusts. New forest policies developed by the Forest Trust Assembly would go back to local forest trusts for ratification.

These new institutions are democratic and will open up public timber to a more diverse spectrum of wood manufacturers. Open markets for timber will reduce BC's vulnerability to discriminatory wood export tariffs and taxes. They also enable First Nations to have local forest trusts or be represented by ward system on local forest trusts.

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