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.