Thursday, May 24, 2012

BC's forestry problems

Significant decline in timber harvest is expected in some interior areas of BC as salvage of timber from forests affected by the mountain pine beetle epidemic winds down. The BC Government has appointed a Special Committee on Timber Supply with the following terms of reference:

"Terms of Reference

On May 16, 2012, the Legislative Assembly agreed that a Special Committee on Timber Supply be appointed to examine, inquire into and make recommendations with respect to mid-term timber supply for British Columbia resulting from the pine beetle epidemic-related loss of timber supply in the central interior, and to conduct consultations on this issue with the public and local governments, including communities and First Nations, by means the Special Committee considers appropriate, with a final report due August 15, 2012.
The Special Committee shall specifically consider:
  • Recommendations that could increase timber supply, including direction on the potential scope of changes to land use objectives, rate of cut and the conversion of volume based to area based tenures; and
  • Areas requiring change to legislation and/or key implementation tools.
The above considerations should occur with due regard for the following:
  • Fiscal commitment of the province to balance the budget and maintain competitive electricity rates;
  • Maintaining high environmental standards and protection of critical habitat for species and key environmental values;
  • Optimal health of communities and as orderly a transition as possible to post beetle cut levels;
  • Maintaining a competitive forest industry;
  • The existence of First Nations rights and claims of title; and
  • The Softwood Lumber Agreement and other trade agreements.
The Special Committee so appointed shall have all the powers of a Select Standing Committee and is also empowered:
  • To appoint of their numbers, one or more subcommittees and to refer to such subcommittees any of the matters referred to the Committee;
  • To sit during a period in which the House is adjourned, during the recess after prorogation until the next following Session and during any sitting of the House;
  • To adjourn from place to place as may be convenient;
  • To retain Jim Snetsinger and Larry Pedersen as technical advisors, and any other personnel as required to assist the Committee;
The said Special Committee shall report to the House no later than August 15, 2012 and shall deposit the original of its reports with the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly during a period of adjournment and upon resumption of the sittings of the House, or at the next following session, the Chair shall present all reports to the Legislative Assembly. "

Will this committee take an honest look at the systemic problems in BC's arrangements for managing public forests? Is this just another public relations effort to squeeze some more timber out of BC's public forests while at the same time push them farther along the road to enclosure by establishing long term area based tenures. The committee has some people with forestry experience and has previous Chief Foresters as advisors. However, this does not mean that the committee will be able to move beyond the same old thinking that created the problems in the first place.

The above terms of reference already put a facade around some of the problems. The BC forest industry is not competitive. It is really an oligopoly of forest corporations supported by Government timber allocations. This is why BC is vulnerable to discriminatory export taxes under the the Softwood Lumber Agreement. 

BC citizens need to keep a eye on this committee.

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