Sunday, February 5, 2012

Healthy Forests Healthy Communities Consensus

In 2011, the Healthy Forests Healthy Communities initiative held meetings in many communities throughout BC seeking consensus. Canadians are polite and seeking consensus is the right and polite way to approach questions. Ask everyone and try and come up with a consensus that offends no one. (Why does it take 101 Canadians to change a light bulb? One to change the bulb and another 100 to reach consensus.)

The following are the conclusions  from 2011

The 2011 HFHC activities generated six (6) conclusions:
1) The concern over the future of BC forest lands is shared by a wide range of BC residents (professional foresters and biologists, academics, First Nations, youth and communities), including a move away from a short-term forest Healthy Forests-Healthy industry economic focus to a long-term stewardship focus while addressing current economic challenges
2) There is a need for a Government approved vision for BC forest lands to guide legislation, regulation, policies and practices
3) Experts in the fields of forest management are of the view more needs to be done regarding forest management to achieve the draft BC forest lands vision and deliver on the needs of communities over the long-term
4) The concerns of communities are consistent throughout the Province with key issues related to communities needs
5) Decision-makers and communities are confronted with a number of challenges due to the current and foreseeable future  provincial economic situation, thereby necessitating innovation and transformative change in the long-term management of BC forest lands
6) More specific suggested actions are required to give guidance to decision makers

There is nothing wrong with these conclusions, but they are rather limp in giving direction. Something that outlines the present problems and gives some concrete solutions is needed. This whole initiative seems to be needing a large testosterone injection to go anywhere.

If there is a large group of concerned citizens, communities, First Nations and professionals, then they should supply a vision for Government. The Government of Canada has already signed on to the Montreal Process, a comprehensive international agreement and definition of sustainable forest management and conservation. It provides an excellent and practical vision for progress toward sustainable forest management.

The Government of BC owns about 95% of BC's forests. It can easily institute a new legal and institutional framework to achieve sustainable forest management and the outcomes of healthy communities and forest manufacturing sector. The main stumbling block is the BC Government's partnership with forest corporations in a non market oligopoly arrangement to reap short term dollars from the forest. We have had more than 60 years of this arrangement and there is no short term left only a bleak long term. This set of legal and institutional arrangements is a failure.

If the people and communities leave it to Government to come up with a vision, they will go to their corporate partners and we will get more of the same, probably in the form of some arrangements that put our forests under greater private control.

Conclusion 6 is correct. The Healthy Forests Healthy Communities needs to come up with some specific solutions to replace the present failed system. They need to be delivered to Government as something pretty scratchy backed by lots of citizens ready to give politicians the order of the boot. Warm fuzzy amorphous suggestions will not ring the Government's bell.

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