Saturday, April 5, 2014

Feedback to the Area Based Forest Tenure Consultation

Area based forest management means an area of forest under the control of a forest steward  responsible for all aspects of forest management and maintenance of forest infrastructure such as roads and other facilities. In a technical forestry sense, this type of forest management can be an improvement over a volume based approach that limits forest management responsibilities to forest harvesting and regeneration over piecemeal parts of a forest.

The  British Columbia Government's consultation process is asking for feedback on the following:
  • the social, economic and environmental benefits that should be sought from proponents interested in converting their forest licences, and
  • the criteria for evaluating applications and the process for implementing conversions, including specific application requirements and target locations for conversion opportunities.
The British Columbia Government is the trustee of our public forests and it's primary responsibility is to ensure sustainable forest management. We hear about sustainable forest management certification processes that aid the marketing of forest products. There are differing definitions of sustainable forest management but there is a scientific gold standard definition, in an international agreement that is intended to help countries or other forest jurisdictions such as British Columbia to assess and make progress toward sustainable forest management. It is called the Montreal Process and its Criteria and Indicators should be used as the primary guidance on the two consultation questions. The seven comprehensive criteria are as follows:
  1. Conservation of biological diversity
  2. Maintenance of the productive capacity of forest ecosystems
  3. Maintenance of forest ecosystem health and vitality
  4. Conservation and maintenance of soil and water resources
  5. Maintenance of forest contribution to global carbon cycles
  6. Maintenance and enhancement of long term multiple socio-economic benefits
  7. Legal, institutional and economic framework for conservation and sustainable management
The criteria have several specific indicators that assess present status and help to guide progress and improvements. Foresters often neglect to give much weight to the last criterion (NO. 7) but it is perhaps the most important. British Columbia is facing some serious sustainability issues in most of above criteria that can be traced to the nature of the present legal and institutional framework largely based on a tenure system. The existing tenure system has restricted the total value of wood products because it has limited diversity of wood product manufacture. Non-timber and nature based forest economic activity has pushed to the sidelines owing to interest in timber. The non-market administered timber pricing and the tenure system have made BC wood exports vulnerable to export taxes and tariffs. The BC Government will be remiss in it's duty as trustee of our public forests, if it fails to examine other area based forest management institutions that do not involve tenure.

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