Saturday, October 8, 2016

Truck Loggers BC: Contractor sustainability

Truck Loggers, an organization of forest contractors in British Columbia has been a robust male enclave for most of its history, but it now has a woman president. Jacqui Beban realizes that the economic sustainability of forest contractors is tied to the sustainability of forest dependent communities. The Truck Loggers Association differs from most other forest sector organizations. Most other organizations represent central interests that are headquartered in big cities rather than the hinterland forest communities. Forest dependent communities and forest contractors have felt the pinch in recent years and Jacqui wants to reverse the trend by setting aside the old paradigms and eliminating the box entirely. The box is the legal and institutional framework for the management of public forests in BC. The Truck Loggers have supported the status quo, but now have a leader that wants to eliminate the box to achieve forest contractor sustainability.

Forest contractor sustainability is about sustainable forests and also about sharing the wealth that is derived from sustainable forest management. When times get tough, forest contractors are expected to shoulder more than their fair share of austerity, keep welding aging equipment and hope that they can remain solvent. They are at the bottom of any trickle down of surplus wealth from public forests.

The box works against forest contractors in many ways. Stewardship of public forests is arranged around rights to harvest public timber held by forest corporations. There two major problems with this arrangement. First, rights to harvest timber are not a sensible foundation for sustainable forest management. Rather, some arrangement based on responsibility for sustainable stewardship is needed to prevent future timber supply problems that result from greed for harvest in the short term. The box is already experiencing these timber supply problems. The box is a central arrangement for disposition of surplus wealth from public forests. The BC Government takes its cut of the surplus in the form of log stumpage charges. In tough times,the government reduces its take to buffer the surplus wealth taken in in the form of forest corporation profits. This buffering does not extend to the forest contractor. The buffering arrangements of government administered timber prices is viewed by trading partner countries as a subsidy and the the forest contractor can get further squeezed by the negative impacts of lumber export duties, tariffs and taxes.

To eliminate the box, Jacqui Beban will need to encourage her members to an about face that sees the Truck Loggers become an advocate for new legal and institutional arrangements that devolve responsibility for forest stewardship from central BC Government to communities. It will mean an end to harvesting rights and progress toward local institutions that are entrusted with long term sustainable stewardship of forest resources. The Truck Loggers have been progressive in encouraging First Nations participation in forestry employment. Aboriginal title has been defined by the Supreme Court of Canada as a community trust to ensure the sustainability of natural resources for present and future generations. The inside the box thinking is that First Nations will exercise this stewardship by consultation with the existing framework for resource allocation, such as harvesting rights in public forests. Aboriginal title needs its own institution to ensure sustainability. Responsibility for stewardship needs to be devolved from the Province to a trust that has registered professional managers and an elected board. The same arrangement could apply to forest dependent communities through the formation of local forest trusts.

The local forest trust would operate as a business that would sell logs on an open market. Forest corporations could not gain harvesting rights in local forest trusts. Professional forest managers would plan and operate the forest with the services of local forest contractors. Non-timber forest economic activities in minor forest products and recreational and tourist enterprises would also be encouraged. The central purpose of a forest trust would be to sustain the local forest to realize multiple economic and social benefit for the local communities. Forest contractor sustainability would be a central part of the deal. Jacqui Beban wants to ensure that the Truck Loggers are "in it for the long run". Truck Loggers can play a key role in ensuring there is a long run for forestry in BC