Saturday, September 24, 2011

Healthy Forests Healthy Communities Initiative

The Healthy Forests Healthy Communities initiative is continuing to hold community dialogue sessions in communities throughout BC. Visit the site to find the date of the meeting in your community. It is a civil society effort manned by volunteers with the initial intent of bringing forestry issues into debates surrounding a BC Provincial election that was expected for Fall 2011. BC voters rejected the Harmonized Sales Tax in a recent referendum and an election is no longer expected for Fall 2011. The initiative is to be commended for organizing a civil society volunteer group that can give the public an independent view.

Frustrated foresters and other resource professionals who know that BC can do a better job of its forest resource stewardship are a strong force within the movement. Many are passionate about proposed improvements to the legal and institutional framework for managing BC's public forests. The central thrust of community dialogue sessions is a vision toward some form of devolution of control of BC's public forests from central control by government and its forest company partners to local communities.

Most foresters and resource professionals have the correct idea about Government that it is there to represent the people and will act on their behalf, especially in the case of public forests. Under this ideal view of things, the initiative just needs to summarize community and professional input for the political decision makers to make changes and act on behalf of the people.

Unfortunately the Government of BC is not there to represent the people as trustee of our huge area of Crown or public forests. BC Government administrations have given tenure to the public forests in the form of harvesting rights to a relatively small group of forest companies. The BC forest sector is a government created oligopoly that gets its wood supply through administered prices. The Government has been handing more and more forest management responsibilities to forest companies. BC's forests have been under a scheme of stealth privatization for decades. This whole arrangement worked well for the government and forest industry for many decades as it gorged itself on the best virgin coniferous forests in the world.

The existing system has been in crisis for a number of years and change is needed. Both government and forestry companies are locked into the existing system and unable to make effective changes. In circumstances such as these, citizens movements arise to fill the gap and create change. The movement to abolish slavery was the first modern movement of this type.

 Bill Moyer, not to be confused with TV journalist Bill Moyers, has studied the mechanics of social movements and has provided guidelines for developing a successful social movement. Organizers of the Healthy Forests Healthy Forests initiative should Google: Bill Moyer Social Movements for ideas to plan the future of their movement.

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