Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Trusteeship of BC's Public Forests

Everyone's Land Claim
At the March 2013 session of the BC Legislature, the BC Liberal administration tried to sneak through provisions to give forest corporations  Tree Farm Licenses in Public Forests.  BC's Public Forests were almost privatized under a house keeping bill to amend several statutes. Fortunately the attempt was foiled by a few watchful individuals and groups.
Gradual or sneak privatization of BC's Public Forests has been underway for decades, as successive BC governments have handed over increasing forest management responsibilities to forest corporations. We need new institutions for the trusteeship of our public forests to ensure their long term security and sustainability. This is essential for the health of our environment, forest dependent communities and industry. Local forest trusts and a BC Forest Trust Assembly are a visionary method of devolving the trusteeship of public forests.
Local Forest Trusts with an elected board and professional forest management staff would operate large areas of forest landscape under a sustainable forest management charter. The charter would be based on the Montreal Process, an international agreement on sustainable forest management and conservation. Local forest trusts would operate as businesses drawing revenue from timber and non timber forest resources as well as nature based economic activities. Timber would be sold on the open market to encourage a diversified forest industry.  Local forest trusts would not be able to contract out or license forest management to major forest corporations.  However, small local business, First Nation's and family stewardship licenses for woodlots, non timber and nature based enterprises would be encouraged. Proceeds of forest operations would first be directed toward the stewardship of the forest and its infrastructure, rather than to general provincial revenues or corporate coffers.
While local forest trusts would have considerable freedom to operate under their sustainable forest management charters, collective services such as aerial firefighting and auditing of local forest trusts would be done by a BC Forest Trust Assembly. The Forest Trust Assembly would be governed by an equal number of elected and professional delegates from local forest trusts. The Forest Trust Assembly would also act as a court of appeal.
First Nation's would also have local forest trusts and the Forest Trust Assembly would assist in the training of first nations people for jobs in local forest trusts. Devolution of the trusteeship under a fair and equal system to the local level will ensure that no future BC political administration will be able to give our forests to private interests.
Local Forest Trusts and a BC Forest Trust Assembly fit the original intent of retaining BC's forests in public ownership. They would provide independent professional forest management to sustain forest dependent communities and a healthy forest industry. Many decades of giving increasing forest management responsibilities to forest corporations has produced the opposite outcome.
 Public Forests were seen as a way to prevent corporate control of timber supplies and ensure that timber would be available on an open market to a wide spectrum of wood products entrepreneurs. Local Forest trusts would restore open markets for public timber and encourage diversity and increased employment and revenue in forest products. Open markets under local forest trusts would free BC wood products from vulnerability to discriminatory export tariffs or taxes.
Under Local Forest Trusts proceeds of forest operations can be returned directly to forest stewardship rather than be skimmed off into government revenues or corporate coffers. This will result in sustainable timber supplies and improved stewardship of the forest environment and water supplies.
On average, less than half of a timber producing landscape in BC is suitable for timber production. The remainder is wilderness in natural condition suited for recreation or nature based economic activities. These wilderness are greater in area than our designated BC Parks. Local Forest Trusts would have a mandate to manage these areas and develop trails and other facilities for recreation and nature based enterprises. This will add economic activity to forest dependent areas and provide more forest amenities and recreational opportunities for all BC residents and visitors.
Take your forest back!  Ask your  political candidates where they stand on Local Forest Trusts. 

Friday, March 15, 2013

Public Forests Reprieved from Privatization

A sneak attempt by the BC Liberal Government to put our public forests on the slipway toward privatization was averted this week.  A house keeping bill to tidy up parts of several statutes contained provisions enabling the Minister of Forests to grant Tree Farm Licenses or area based leases of Public Forests to forest corporations. The media did little to draw this to the attention of the public. However, a few individuals and groups started to bring the issue to the attention of the public. Fortunately the Liberal Government, that uses the name Liberal as a cover for neo-conservatism has outlived its welcome with the public. An election will occur in May 2012, so they decided that it was not in their interests to pursue the legislation.

We should not rejoice. The whole attempt to start the enclosure of most of BC into the private interest only managed to make it into small columns in the back pages of newspapers. Meanwhile, a minor scandal involving use of a small amount of public funds by the Liberals to attract the ethnic vote made major headlines on the front page.  We should  recognize that a government on its last legs almost got off with an attempt to give away most of our forest and British Columbia. A future government in a stronger position could and will get away with it.

After a binge on old growth forest resources over the last century, BC's forests are not such an attractive goldmine. They are in need of stewardship investment. BC politicians have already got their sights on our huge natural gas deposits as the next goldmine. Forests will be of little interest to politicians. The BC Legislative Assembly is the highest court and the trustee of our public forests. To stop the gradual trend toward enclosure of our forests, we need some new institutions to act as the trustee.

My letter published in the March-April of the BC Forest professional considers the question of trusteeship:

"A comprehensive definition of good forest stewardship can be found in the Montreal Process. The 1909 Fulton Commission advised the legislature that the public interest is served by ensuring a wise system of forest stewardship. The public interest and sustainable forest stewardship are almost one and the same.
BC politicians worked with the short term public interest, essentially viewing the public forests as a gold mine. Our tenure system of timber harvesting rights was an expedient vehicle to make cash flow to the coffers of government and corporations.  Adding on a few forest management requirements to this questionable foundation does not make good forest stewardship.
 The Montreal Process red flags forest stewardship issues with a view to making improvements. Criterion 7 looks at the legal and institutional framework to see if it supports conservation and sustainable forest management. BC has significant stewardship and economic issues that can be traced to legal and institutional deficiencies.
Our sovereign legislature has achieved a milestone of over 100 years of failure as the trustee of our public forests.  How will the short term public interest be exercised over the next 100 years? Will our public forests be sold for a song, or continue toward gradual enclosure into the private interest through long term leases?
Advocating improvement to our legal and institutional framework for good stewardship is most important.  New institutional arrangements for trusteeship of public forests is the place to start. Local forest trusts with elected boards and professional forest management staff could operate forests under trust documents modeled on the Montreal Process. A BC Forest Trust Assembly governed by elected and professional delegates from local forest trusts could audit and provide collective services to local forest trusts. First Nation's could have local forest trusts, so that there will be no need to alienate public forest land from the covenant of sustainable stewardship."

We need to make trusteeship of public forests an issue in the upcoming BC election.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Stop the enclosure of public fiorests

This urgent message of March 8, 2013 is from Bob Simpson MLA:

Bill 8, which contains the proposed rollover legislation in section 24, will by all accounts come up for second reading debate next week. It is critical that we use this weekend and Monday to let Minister Thomson and Government House Leader Mike De Jong know that we don’t want a repeat of the Social Credit’s failed legislation that was rejected by the public in 1989.
If you don’t want this legislation to pass, and if we want a real conversation on tenure reform before any future legislation is introduced, then I urge you to email and tweet both Ministers this weekend asking them to delete section 24 from Bill 8.

Minister Thomson:
Minister de Jong:
Twitter: @Mike_de_Jong and @Steve4Kelowna Hashtags: #stopbill8 #bcpoli
Attached are two tables that show the potential impact rolling over replaceable licenses would have on log supply in each Timber Supply Area (TSA) throughout the province. Remember that only holders of these replaceable forest licenses would be eligible for any new area-based Tree Farm Licenses (TFLs). Some things to note as you look at the tables:
  • Anywhere a TFL is created within a TSA, the land base to achieve all the other volume-based licenses in that TSA would shrink, as the new TFL(s) give exclusive rights to the successful proponent(s).
  • It is likely that the land base awarded in any new TFLs within the mountain pine beetle (MPB) zone would give exclusive rights over a much larger areabecause of the need to achieve the volume of cut guaranteed in the replaceable forest license. The area taken out of the TSA for any new TFLs will likely be significantly larger than it would if the forest was healthy.
In Table 1 (Apportionment Summary), you’ll see what percentage of the cut in each TSA is assigned to replaceable licensees, the companies that hold those licenses, and what percentage of the cut each company has. Table 2 summarizes the apportionment in each TSA for the five major forest products companies. It’s clear from these two tables that enabling rollover without a provincial policy framework to limit corporate control will result in the creation of regional monopolies.
Again, please use this weekend through Monday to let Ministers Thomson and De Jong know that you want section 24 removed from Bill 8 so that the rollover legislation doesn’t get passed into law at the last minute of this government’s mandate.
Bob Simpson, MLA Cariboo North