Timber Tenures Overview
British Columbia has one of the largest publicly owned forests on
earth, about 95% of the entire area of the province. This public
ownership allows the BC government to manage forests according to the
environmental, social and economic interests of all British Columbians.
The government transfers specific rights to use forests to private
companies, community groups and individuals through the Tenure System.
A Timber Tenure can be an agreement, a license or a permit. All of
these are legally binding contracts with specific rights and
obligations. Obligations include payment of stumpage fess and/or
royalties, requirements to grow new trees on areas cut, carrying out
environmental assessments and preparing long term management plans for
integrating different uses of the forest. The administration of
different agreements is carried out by Timber Tenures staff.
The largest users of forest products are the industrial users - forest
companies such as Tembec, Canfor, and Galloway. These companies
typically have long term rights to harvest timber as they usually have
to provide a secure supply of wood for company owned sawmills. These
timber rights are held either through a Forest License or Tree Farm
License. A Tree Farm License is based on a specific land area where a
company can have exclusive rights to harvest timber whereas a Forest
License allows a company to harvest a specific volume of timber from a
much larger geographic area, in conjunction with other companies that
may hold forest licenses.
The Ministry of Forests and Range also offers up temporary Forest
Licenses from time to time, usually for a 5 year term, and for specific
purposes. Some examples of specific purposes are fire salvage,
mountain pine beetle infested timber and timber that is required to be
removed to enable Ecosystem Restoration.
Timber Sale Licenses are another form of timber rights which are
advertised and auctioned to the highest bidder by the BC Timber Sales
Program (BCTS). The licenses are usually short term for a specific area
and a specific amount of timber.
The Woodlot License is another form of long term tenure on smaller
specific land areas. These are advertised and awarded competitively to
individuals who want to manage forests on a smaller scale and usually
they contribute private land as well.
A Forestry License to Cut is a tenure used for small volumes of
timber. This is usually for timber that is damaged by insects, fire or
wind but can also be used for special purposes such as commercial
firewood, fence rails, or teepee poles.
A Christmas Tree Permit authorises the growing and/or harvesting of
Christmas trees for commercial purposes. These are for specific land
areas that are managed over a long term.
Forest tenures include some type of obligation to pay stumpage fees
or royalties to the BC government. For timber that is large enough to
cut lumber, the stumpage is determined by appraising the value of the
timber. Tree species, size and quality information is collected by a
timber cruise, which samples a proportion of the trees on an area to be
harvested. This inventory, along with estimates of logging, road
building and sawmilling costs are then calculated against the estimated
selling price of lumber to come up with a stumpage rate. Stumpage rates
can range from a minimum of $.25 to as high as $60.00 per cubic meter of
wood. For smaller volumes of timber, where it is not economical to
cruise the timber, an average stumpage rate is used. Current average
rates for the Rocky Mountain Forest District range from $2-$17 per cubic
meter, based on tree species. For forest products that are too small to
make lumber, fixed stumpage rates are charged based on the type of
For individuals who wish to cut firewood or Christmas trees for
personal use, a Free Use Permit may be issued. This type of permit has
no fees or royalties payable. Respect for other forest users can be
demonstrated by avoiding cutting firewood from standing trees or from
logging areas. Christmas trees should not be cut from areas marked as
commercial Christmas tree permits or logged over areas, as these are
trees that another licensee is required to grow.
Before removing any forest products, please check with the local
district office to see if any authorisation is required.