Sunday, July 12, 2015

Truck Loggers search for sustainability

The Truck Loggers Association has been a force for change in BC forestry. It is a forest contractor association that has been vocal about it's members being financially squeezed by major forest corporations. Their Truck Logger BC magazine contains regular grumbling about this problem and nothing much has changed for their members. Contractors have taken the brunt of recent difficulties in the forest sector.

The summer 2015 issue re-frames the issue as one of contractor sustainability. This is probably an effective avenue toward a solution. They draw on definitions from the 1987 Brundtland Commission to support their concept of contractor sustainability. Adequate compensation for work done in the forest enables the contractor to invest in new and innovative equipment and maintain a safe stable work force. This enables efficient forest operations and better environmental protection. The forest and forest dependent communities benefit from stability and sustainability. The Truck Loggers have a winning argument.

The Truck Loggers Association view is supported in an international forest sustainability agreement called the Montreal Process. Criterion 6 of that agreement has several indicators that match their views. The "distribution of revenues derived from forest management" is a central concern of Truck Loggers and is the heading of indicator under Criterion 6. While the Montreal Process supports contractor and community stability, it also takes a comprehensive view of all aspects of forest conservation and sustainable forest management. Good stewardship for ensure forest health, productivity, stable soils, good water quality are covered. Truck Loggers will understand that these are vital for contractor sustainability.

The final Criterion of the Montreal Process concerns the legal and institutional arrangements that support sustainable forest management. We do not tend to think that these are very important. Also we tend to accept our Provincial arrangements without much question or analysis. British Columbia's Crown forests were retained in public ownership to ensure their sustainable management. The foundation is very strong but some of the structures we have built on top of the foundation were designed for post WWII economic expansion and have since resulted in some sustainability problems. The legal arrangements for managing public forests should involve responsibilities for sustainable stewardship. However, we try to manage forests in BC under rights to harvest. Forest corporations hold or control most of these rights. Forest contractors get squeezed because they are little guys working for the big timber rights holders. Truck Loggers do not want to bite the hand that feeds but they need to realize that without some change in this core issue, their lot will not improve in the future.

Aboriginal title is a change agent. We think hat aboriginal title can somehow be absorbed or co-opted under the present arrangements for forest management. Aboriginal title is not compatible with our present arrangements because it is a more advanced concept. It is not an ownership concept but a delegation of responsibility to a community group to sustain the land and forest for the benefit of future generations. Aboriginal title needs its own legal and institutional arrangements. There is the need for some democratic elected board that represents the community and professional resource managers that can plan and manage for sustainability. A local community based sustainable forest trust is much more likely to place priority on contractor sustainability than a large forest corporation.
The concept of the community based sustainable trust in Aboriginal title is one that has wider application to all forest dependent communities in British Columbia. Contractor sustainability, the goal of the Truck Loggers, would be on a much stronger foundation under local sustainable trusts than under the present arrangements.