Wednesday, October 16, 2013

British Columbia Truck Loggers having second thoughts?

Early in 2013,the British Columbia Liberal Government administration tried to sneak through legislation to bring more long term area based forest tenures in public forests. Against expectations, the Liberal Government was re-elected and the legislation lies dormant, but will probably resurface after a waiting period. (USA readers should note that Liberal in BC means right of center in the political spectrum). The BC Truck Loggers Association has been holding the torch on this issue and the Fall edition of their magazine has another article on these long term leases in public forests.

The Truck Loggers Association wants a healthy forest economy and has a genuine interest in the stewardship of BC's public forests. Area based forest management of public forests, with a long term steward taking responsibility for a defined area of forest is a much better alternative. There are long term stewardship advantages, but the argument should not be used with the assumption that the steward should be a forest corporation

 The article on area based tenures advances their merits, but there seem to be some doubts or at least second thoughts. TLA Executive Director, Dwight Yochim is suggesting a limit to the amount of area that a forest company may hold to prevent monopolies.
Bill Markvoort, the TLA President also notes "our system of quasi ownership creates significant distortions in the marketplace". 
The cover of the magazine features an excavator laying a pipeline and asks the question "Is this where forest contractors are heading". Forest contractors are still getting squeezed  by forest corporations, even though there has been improvement in the economy of the forest products sector.

Is the present system  working well for Truck Loggers or their communities? Maybe it is time for a major change in the system and institutions for managing public forests in BC. Incremental changes to an old system may not be the most effective. Our system for managing public forests needs to take a major leap or change.

Area based forest management is a better arrangement and more likely to result in a sustainable future for forests, contractors and communities. The next question is what sort of steward do we want to manage the defined area of forest.  Truck Loggers could think outside the box and consider the merits of a democratic local forest trust as the steward in area based management of public forests. If the forest contractor gets poor treatment from the professional managers of the local forest trust, he can appeal to the democratically board. Local forest trusts will manage all forest resources and include non timber forest products and nature based enterprises as part of the business. Timber will be sold on an open market and this will help to diversify forest products manufacture and free British Columbia from discriminatory export taxes. A local forest trust will conduct its own forest operations and will be interested in maintaining local forest contractors with up to date equipment and a high level of forest worker training. A local forest trust will take the concept of the "working forest" beyond the limited timber perspective of the forest corporation and generate greater social license. The  local forest trust will be a long term entity and a more stable steward than forest corporations that can be bought sold or amalgamated. Where is the great blue chip forest corporation Macmillan Bloedel today.  This giant of BC's forest industry disappeared in less time than it takes a tree to grow.  (Click on the sidebar label: Democratic area based forest trusts for more information on  Local Forest Trusts and a BC Forest Trust Assembly)

Truck  Loggers should not be bamboozled by the political rhetoric that will attempt to disguise that granting long term marketable area based forest tenures to forest corporations is an irretrievable step towards enclosing public forests into the private interest.  Historically, enclosure of common or public land has been accomplished gradually by incremental steps so the people get ripped off without noticing. The most recent article in the Truck Logger magazine supplies the following from Jim Hackett of the Interior Lumber Manufacturers Association: " It's still crown land. It is just another form of tenure that replaces the one that is there now. Currently you don't see fences and 'Keep Out' signs on area based tenures on the coast."  Keeping public forests in nominal Crown Land status will be central ruse in the upcoming grand land enclosure heist involving the theft of most of British Columbia.

We are inclined to think that public land enclosure will never happen in BC. It already has happened. The Esquimalt and Nanaimo Railway Land Grant comprising probably the best piece of forest land in BC extends down the east side of Vancouver Island was given by BC to a coal baron, against strong public objection, as a bonus after building a railway at the expense of the Government of Canada. Mr. Hackett of the Interior Lumber Manufacturers Association  should note that there are gates, fences and keep out signs in this area of enclosed forest land.

So Truck Loggers, this is your public forest and please show enough of that good old time logger independence and fortitude. Think of ABT as area based tenure and you have lost it, but if you think ABT as Area Based Trust you keep it. How about a few more articles on the merits of ABT (Area Based Trusts) in your magazine. 


  1. It should be noted that 94% of all the forest land in B.C. is public owned (Crown land), and that these area bases tenures have been in place since 1949. So for over 60 years they have remained "public land" and have not been "slowly converting to private land" as the article seems to worry about. Private forest land in BC accounts for less than 5% of the land base while the balance is federal lands(parks, etc.). If we are truly interested in having a healthy forest industry, just make sure that the companies who work in in (large and small) are not hamstrung from effectively running their business.

    1. One of the main reasons that BC kept most of its forests in public ownership was to prevent forest interests or corporations from controlling the timber supply and engaging in improvident stewardship. You are correct that the process of gradual enclosure of public forests into the private interest started after WWII with Tree Farm Licenses. Forest corporations have been given increasing management responsibilities in public forests. This type of incremental privatization has been employed for centuries to enclose common or public land into the private interest. It is possible to give almost complete control to private interests while maintaining a nominal Crown or public land designation. We should not be easily hoodwinked into loosing our land and heritage.

  2. Well said Andrew. Extension of private rights to an oligopoly of forest corporations is not in the interests of the TLA, forest-dependent communities or First Nations. Nor is it in the public interest.

    The government committed to consulting with the public during the Summer. Nothing. Next, the government committed to public consultation in the Fall. Again, nothing.

    But during the Summer and Fall the government is said to have been holding secret meetings with Mayors and First Nations in an attempt to get them on side -- ironically two parties with the most to lose by TFL rollover legislation.

    Meanwhile, the government is said to be working on the details of legislation allowing rollover of forest licences into TFLs behind closed doors and will get the nod from the handful of forest corporations before it shows anything to the public.

    In other words, when the government does turn to the public, TFL rollover legislation will be a done deal with corporate approval.

    The public needs to start engaging now before the government does to the public-owned forests what it did to BC Rail.

  3. Research McBride Community Forest, an economic and stewardship failure. Local control of provincial land doesn't guarantee proper land term management.
    Two things I believe (after running small sawmill for 40+ years): if you own it (Crown land) you must take responsibility for maintaining it, and you cannot give that responsibility away without transferring ownership - out right sale!
    "Give a man possession of a bleak rock and he will turn it into a garden; give him...a lease of a garden and he will turn it into a desert. - Arthur Young (1787)

    1. Community Forest Licences in BC are just another timber rights tenure. This blog advocates local control of forests under two new institutions: The Local Forest Trust and a British Columbia Forest Trust Assembly. Click on 'Democratic Area Based Forest Trusts' in the side bar for more information on these institutions.

  4. The issue is who manages the forests. Not who logs them. We have treated the forests like they will be like they were before they were harvested but a pine tree is different than a fir tree. Different value and different future. Many of the plantations from the 70's and 80's are junk. Free to grow creates short term behavior and the manager focused on f to g has the incentive to achieve this status asap. The result is pine plantations that suck. That is the issue. Area based management creates different behavior.


We encourage comments and questions