Sunday, December 2, 2012

Reliance on Forest Professionals

In the early 1900's, BC decided to keep most of its forests in Crown or Public ownership. One of the main reasons for this decision was to ensure that BC's forests would receive professional forest management. A BC Forest Service staffed by professional foresters was instituted to provide independent forest management. Independent professional forest management held great promise at the time, as an alternative to treatment of forests by greedy timber barons. Timber interests had chopped there way through much of the forests of USA. USA was placing some of its remaining virgin forests in a system of National Forests with independent professional forest management. BC followed with a major scheme of public forests.

Have the benefits of independent professional forest management been realized?  They have not been realized because the concept has been subverted for a century. Instead of getting the timber interests out of the forests, BC's public forests were allocated in the form of timber harvesting rights to forest companies. This was not an arrangement to ensure good forest stewardship, but rather a means to ensure rapid conversion of timber resources into cash. It is a system of economic exploitation at its core. It has been dressed up to make it appear to be sustainable. You can only exploit for so long before you run into trouble and BC forestry has been in trouble for some time.

The industrial forest management scheme in BC, turned the professional forester into a technician that serviced the machine. Although there land use and higher level plans that often furnish little more than vague objectives, most of the planning for the roads, clear cut harvesting is done for short periods of a few years on piecemeal parts of the forest.  Most of this planning is done by forest companies, and over the years there has been an increasing transfer of forest management responsibilities from the Forest Service to forest companies. The public's independent forest managers have forced by politicians to abdicate their independent professional management responsibilities.

In the past decade there has been an accelerated transfer of forest management authority to forest corporations. No one seems to understand that this is also a gradual transfer of public forests into the private interest. A center piece of the public relations to effect this change has been "Professional Reliance".  In other words this means that the public has to rely on a professional forester employed and paid by a timber corporations to manage their forests. This is nothing but a facade to move the public forests further into the private interest.

Yes, we should rely on forest professionals to manage our public forests. We should get the reporting relationships right. Should the forest professional be reporting to a profit making forest corporation?  Rather the forest professional should report to a locally elected public board that oversees a local forest trust. Local forest trusts covering all public forest landscapes in BC should be governed by a BC Forest Trust Assembly comprised of one elected and one professional forest management delegate from each local forest trust. The BC Forest Trust Assembly would benefit from a balance of professional advice. We need effective institutional arrangements to ensure that we really rely on professional foresters. The present concept of professional reliance is little more than a scam

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