Saturday, November 23, 2013

Speak up for Public Forests

One hundred and one years ago, British Columbia pioneers decided to retain most of the forests of British Columbia for the people.

Public forests were dedicated to the proposition that government can act as the enduring trustee and ensure a wise and sustainable system of forest management.  Forest dependent communities would be free from periods of timber drought. Public timber would be available on an open market to encourage a competitive, diversified and healthy forest products industry. BC's forests would be free from waste and improvident use and the people would have freedom of access for recreation.

For seven decades, governments have seen our forests as an opportunity for economic development. Forest corporations were given timber harvesting rights and increasing forest management responsibilities in public forests. Forest dependent communities are facing timber droughts. A few forest corporations control most of the timber supply. Their favored position on public timber supply makes BC's wood products vulnerable to export taxes and tariffs. Errors of omission and commission by the Forest Service and forest corporations resulted in huge areas of old Lodge Pole Pine. It was vulnerable to mountain pine beetle attack. A recent epidemic resulted in a serious and major loss of timber supply.

The BC Government  hopes to solve forest problems by giving forest corporations greater long term control of designated areas of public forests. This will put our forests on a path toward privatization.

A better alternative is to rededicate our public forests by having large areas designated as local forest trusts will boards elected form the communities in the vicinity. A professional forest management staff would run the local trust as a business involved in timber, non timber and nature based economic activities. First Nations could have their own local trust or be represented on a local trust board. A BC Forest Trust Assembly governed by elected and professional delegates from local forest trusts would audit, support and act as a court of appeal.

(Reprinting encouraged; no permission required)

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