Forest, Range & Recreation Resource Analysis Table of Contents

9.1.5 Towards Sustainability 1984-1994

In the decade since 1984, forestry issues have become intense and complicated. Timber supply has become increasingly scarce. The falldown, projected to occur sometime in the future, is a reality in several management units. Policy issues are no longer restricted to questions of timber supply production, but include a range of other resource uses and ecological values. The concept of sustainability has evolved from a focus on maximum sustained yield to a concern for integrated use and ecosystem management.

The policy process has changed as well, to include new players in a more open and consultative manner. Community representatives, labour representatives, industry, environmentalists, scientists, First Nations and others now participate in many forest policy initiatives in British Columbia.

Table 9.1, at the end of Section 9.1.5, summarizes the key events and policy initiatives of the past 10 years. Major policy thrusts since 1984 have been to enhance timber supply, to respond to environmental concerns regarding forest practices and to land use and recognize aboriginal rights to forests.

In 1984, the Canada-British Columbia Subsidiary Agreement for site rehabilitation and regenerating the backlog of not satisfactorily restocked (NSR) lands was extended by one year. This agreement was replaced in 1985, when the provincial and federal governments committed $300 million over five years to “sustain or increase the forest resource and strengthen the employment potential of the forest industry” by reforesting areas that had not yet been restocked, intensively managing selected stands, conducting research, and assisting the industry in studies related to utilization, marketing and product development. This program, the Forest Resources Development Agreement (FRDA), was successful in achieving its first goal — to make major inroads into the renewal of the backlog of NSR area — and substantially achieved its other goals. A second agreement (FRDA II), negotiated in 1991, committed $200 million over four years and was aimed at intensive silviculture, research of forest practices to enhance integrated management, public communication, small-scale forestry and economic and social analysis.

Trade-related issues were still an important force influencing forest policy. Although unsuccessful in its 1982-83 countervail duty action, the United States forest industry launched another suit in 1986, alleging that the provincial governments unfairly subsidized the Canadian forest products industry through their system of pricing Crown timber. The 1982-83 decision was reversed in a preliminary determination by the United States Department of Commerce in October 1986. To avoid a final determination, the Government of Canada negotiated a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Government of the United States, dated December 30, 1986. Under the MOU, Canada imposed a 15% export charge on lumber shipments to the United States.

The export charge on British Columbian lumber shipments to the United States was eliminated in December 1987, following the adoption of replacement measures by British Columbia in October 1987. These replacement measures consisted of increased timber charges and the transfer of reforestation costs to the industry.

The previous stumpage appraisal system was based on the Rothery method, whereby stumpage was the residual after subtracting from the timber market price the licensee’s operating costs, an allowance for profit and risk, and forest management costs. Under the new “comparative value pricing” system the government would calculate an average stumpage rate. The stumpage charged each licensee would differ from the average, based on factors such as the relative cost, quality and volume harvested.

In addition, the government transferred to the industry the responsibility for management — such as costs of major road construction and silviculture — and no longer reimbursed these costs by way of credits against the stumpage owed. All outstanding credit balances owing to the licensee were used to offset stumpage charges until the balances declined to zero. This was a significant departure from previous forest policy, which had accepted the principle that the government, as land owner, was responsible for forest management.

To complement this policy initiative, the government introduced new silviculture legislation and regulations in 1987. The licensee was required to prepare a pre-harvest silviculture prescription (PHSP) for approval prior to receiving a cutting permit. The PHSP outlined the silvicultural system to be used, how other resource values would be accommodated and the reforestation prescription. It became a form of contract with the government, subject to audit and penalties for non-compliance. FRDA I, which markedly reduced the backlog of NSR areas and the new silviculture regulations that required reforestation by law, were significant new forest renewal provisions.

In 1987, the government implemented a policy change: 5% of the major licensees’ timber rights were reallocated to create opportunities for small operators and value-added enterprises. The timber rights were directed to the Small Business Forest Enterprise Program (SBFEP). This entire volume was allocated to a new type of timber sale — the bid proposal sale under Section 16.1 of the Forest Act. Bid proposal sales would be made available, through competition, to lumber remanufacturers and producers of specialty wood products with the best value-added proposals. The objectives of the policy were to generate more diversity in the industry and to extract more value per unit of timber harvested.

This policy was a switch from the previous focus on increasing fibre production and operating efficiencies as a way to secure economic wealth. Timber supply was not likely to increase any further, and even though efficiencies had been achieved, employment had declined due to technological advances. Competitive sales and value-added manufacturing would potentially generate wealth and employment without an increase in AAC.

Another important policy change proposed in 1987 — to double the TFL program in order to strengthen incentives for private sector investment in intensive silviculture — was unsuccessful. In 1989, strong opposition to the issuance of a TFL in Mackenzie prompted the Minister of Forests to hold a series of public hearings around the province to gather reaction to this policy.

Proponents of expansion believed TFLs would provide the security required for private sector investment, incentives for management and stability of employment. This same rationale was articulated by Sloan in the 1940s when the TFL program was established. The minister also heard opposing views: increased corporate concentration led to too much control by too few companies which did not necessarily act in a community’s best interests; the vertical integration encouraged by TFLs inhibited market competition and innovation; and actual forestry practices on TFL lands did not always live up to the claims made by forestry spokespersons. In the end, public opinion did not support the expansion of the TFL program and called into question the premises of the previous forest policy, especially the role of large, vertically integrated corporations. It was asserted that long-term security of timber rights to corporations did not mean community stability and good forest management, as had been promised in the 1940s when the policy was introduced.

Meanwhile, planning processes were being developed to incorporate other resource values. Field staff were implementing a resource folio planning method at the local level for areas with significant values other than timber. The method layered maps of various resource features (e.g., wildlife habitat, soils, topography) over one another to create a composite map from which integrated resource options could be developed and sensitive areas flagged. Other resource specialists, such as hydrologists and wildlife biologists, and members of the public, formed teams to discuss options and negotiate a consensus-based decision for the management of those areas. At the management unit level, timber supply area plans were developed to assess alternative management options and the implications of alternative rates of harvest. In 1987, the ministry established the Integrated Resource Management Program, and guidelines and standards were adopted as policy.

The integrated resource planning processes involved negotiations to develop harvesting guidelines to protect other resource values. The British Columbia Coastal Fisheries Forestry Guidelines,[203] formally approved in 1988, were negotiated over a period of several years between the B.C. Ministry of Forests, the B.C. Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks, the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the Council of Forest Industries of B.C. The guidelines were designed to protect coastal fisheries habitat from the possible negative impact of logging. However, audits of compliance with the guidelines in 1992, and again in 1994, found the industry’s performance to be inadequate in many cases. It appeared that the guidelines were not being properly implemented or enforced. This reaffirmed the need to enshrine integrated resource guidelines in a legislated framework, enforceable by law.

Although many of the local planning processes were successful in resolving resource use conflicts, consensus was not possible in several highly contentious areas. Public interest, increased environmental activism, workers’ concerns and First Nations issues highlighted these conflicts in some areas, most notably South Moresby Island (1987), Carmanah Valley (1990) and Clayoquot Sound (1993).

Environmental issues became international in scope. The World Commission on Environment and Economy questioned the wisdom of unrestricted economic development. In its 1987 report, Our Common Future, the commission brought the links between the environment and the economy to the attention of the world. The key idea was that to be sustainable, development must not exceed the capacity of the environment to renew itself; to do so undermines the economy, which depends on a healthy environment. This concept gained acceptance. In 1992, at a follow-up United Nations conference in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, commonly known as the Earth Summit or UNCED ‘92, governmental and non-governmental leaders met to develop a strategy (Agenda 21) to implement sustainable development worldwide. In addition to Agenda 21, international conventions on biological diversity and global climate change were negotiated.

Canada was a significant contributor to these international initiatives and incorporated the concept of sustainable development in its 1992 National Forest Strategy. The strategy, sponsored by the Canadian Council of Forest Ministers, was developed in consultation with a wide range of groups and interests over a period of two years. The federal, provincial and territorial governments as well as environmental groups, industry, First Nations and labour, committed to “maintain and enhance the long-term health of our forest ecosystem, for the benefit of all living things both nationally and globally, while providing environmental, economic, social and cultural opportunities for the benefit of present and future generations.”[204] The central goal of the 1992 National Forest Strategy was to sustain the forest ecosystem, while the goal of the 1987 National Forest Sector Strategy was to sustain economic benefits — a significant shift in perspective in just five years.

The linking of the economy with the environment, and the concept that the key to sustaining timber was to sustain the forest, had gained acceptance. The challenge became how to translate this concept into practical forest policy.

Economic considerations, while still important, were no longer the only ones influencing policy decisions. Forest policy now faced equally important social, cultural and ecological issues. Industry, communities, labour, environmental groups, First Nations and foresters wanted the government to review forest policy and develop strategies to deal with job losses, decreasing timber supplies, preservation of old growth, aboriginal participation, investment in silviculture, ecologically sound forest practices and local control over resource management. Each group had its own perspective of the problem and lobbied for a variety of solutions. The issues were complex, options were limited by scarcity, and proposed solutions were sometimes diametrically opposed. What was clear, however, was that the policy framework had to change.

In 1989, the Minister of Forests set up the Forest Resources Commission (FRC) to independently review and make recommendations on forestry issues. The FRC mandate was to provide a comprehensive view of what the forests of B.C. should represent to the Minister of Forests; to advise the minister on the effectiveness of tree farm licences as a form of tenure; to recommend ways to improve public participation in forest planning and management; and to review and recommend ways of improving forest harvesting practices, focusing on clearcutting and its associated forest practices.[205]

Public meetings were held across B.C., background studies were commissioned, and the relevant resource agencies, including the Ministry of Forests, were questioned. Two years later, in 1991, the commission submitted its report to government. It made108 recommendations on land use, integrated resource use, timber supply, pricing and tenure.

A key recommendation was the implementation of a provincial land use planning process to identify protected areas, integrated use lands and areas for intensive timber management. The commission saw land use as a major issue that must be resolved to eliminate much of the current conflict and uncertainty and to develop a comprehensive strategy taking into account all economic, social and ecological concerns.

The Ministry of Forests had already recognized the need to deal with land use in a more comprehensive manner and, in 1990, initiated the Old Growth Strategy to deal with the critical issue of old-growth values. A wide range of interests were consulted, and a guideline for action to protect old-growth values was released in 1992. It recommended that the government protect additional representative old-growth areas, as well as adopt new forest practices to manage for old-growth characteristics.

Another province-wide land use planning initiative, Parks and Wilderness for the ’90s, was a public process. Managed by B.C. Parks and the Ministry of Forests its objective was to develop a comprehensive network of parks and wilderness areas for the province. In 1992, the government launched the Protected Areas Strategy, incorporating recommendations made from both the Old Growth Strategy and from Parks and Wilderness for the ’90s. Its goal was to establish a comprehensive network of areas representing all of B.C.’s major ecological zones and culturally significant areas. The Premier committed to doubling parks and wilderness areas in B.C. to a total of 12% by the year 2000.

However, the Protected Areas Strategy dealt with only one aspect of a broader land use issue. A more comprehensive process, that also addressed social and economic issues, was needed for overall sustainability. In 1991, the government established the Commission on Resources and Environment (CORE). It was charged with developing regional land use plans in an open and consultative manner for all resources, considering industrial activities as well as protected areas. The CORE process is described more fully in Section 9.2.2.

With the shift towards ecosystem management, the information requirements of forest managers had changed. They now needed data on other resources, forest productivity and ecosystem types. In 1991, a multi-agency committee, the Resource Inventory Committee, was formed to work on developing an integrated resource inventory. This included establishing common standards for sampling, classifying and storing resource data. Further, the Ministry of Forests established the vegetation inventory working group (formerly the timber inventory task force) to improve the statistical accuracy of the inventory, incorporate the most current technology and integrate with other resource inventories. The biogeoclimatic ecological classification system and inventory, originated in the 1970s, continued to be systematically developed and refined to provide an ecological basis for forest management.

Another major policy initiative which began in the early 1990s was the development of the Forest Practices Code. Its objectives, among other things, are to set standards for enhanced stewardship, to strive for balance between economic needs and long-term ecological sustainability, and to provide an effective administrative system through a comprehensive system of incentives and practices. The maintenance of ecological processes was viewed as prerequisite to achieving other economic and social goals. Sustainable forests were to be promoted through tough environmental regulations and enforcement of forest practices, thereby sustaining the forest economy and the environment. The Forest Practices Code is examined in detail in Section 9.2.3.

By the early 1990s, downward pressure on timber supply had intensified. Consequently, in 1990-91, the ministry conducted an internal review of timber supply. It became evident to the chief forester that the AAC could not remain at its current level, under existing management regimes, without risking steep reductions in future harvest rates and severe impacts on the environment. The reasons were complex. The impact of integrated resource management guidelines had not originally been incorporated into the estimates of available timber supply. Also, the anticipated gains from intensive silviculture had not materialized, and many difficult areas, previously assumed accessible, had proved otherwise. This situation motivated the initiation of the Timber Supply Review process, which was a review of current timber supply under current management conditions (see Section 9.2.4). A three-year program was initiated immediately to allow the chief forester to determine new AACs for all Crown-managed forest in timber supply areas and for Crown- and privately-managed forest in tree farm licence areas.

In 1991 the chief forester’s attempt to reduce the AAC of a TFL was disputed by the licensee, who formally appealed the decision. At the heart of the dispute were differing opinions regarding the impact of integrated resource guidelines on the AAC and the company’s ability to harvest expensive, non-conventional wood.[206] The appeal provided a forum for debate regarding the “correct” interpretation and implementation of sustained yield. The appeal board supported the traditional view of maximization of timber production, while the chief forester put more emphasis on environmental values and took a more conservative approach than that proposed by the licensee. The chief forester eventually succeeded in reducing the harvest level for the TFL, citing ecological reasons. This was evidence that ecological concerns were indeed playing a significant role in major issues related to forestry.

The falldown, first projected in the late 1970s, was becoming evident in some management units. The AAC could no longer be sustained at its current level and was being reduced to reflect realistic assessments of accessibility, forest practices to protect ecological integrity, and the transition from old- to second-growth yields. With the harvest reduction came a concern for economic and social impacts.

The government responded, in 1993, by establishing the Forest Sector Strategy Committee to advise and assist it in finding solutions. Representatives of industry, labour, First Nations, environmentalists, academics and government came together to consider strategies for revitalizing B.C.’s forests. Its work contributed to the development of the Forest Renewal Plan, which was announced in 1994.

The Forest Renewal Plan (FRP) is a multi-billion-dollar investment plan that complements and strengthens other forest land initiatives. FRP investments will mitigate reductions in sustainable harvest levels and strengthen the forest sector in the long term. The plan includes training and investment components to promote value-added industry, environmental restoration, community stability, maintenance of jobs and research (see Section 9.2.5).

As well, the government responded to emerging aboriginal issues in several ways. In 1990, the Task Force on Native Forestry was established to find ways to increase aboriginal participation in forestry. Its report, released in 1991, recommended an early resolution to aboriginal land claims and implementation of strategies to address the economic development and employment needs in aboriginal communities. The Ministry of Forests recognized the need to address aboriginal concerns by formalizing meaningful aboriginal community involvement and participation in planning and economic development and, in 1991, signed memoranda of understanding. A First Nations Forestry Council was formed in 1993 to work with the government to implement the recommendations of the Task Force.

A key court decision on the Gitxsan Wet’suwet’en appeal of the Delgamuukw vs. the Queen case in 1993 had significant implications for forest use. The B.C. Court of Appeal reversed a previous decision and held that blanket extinguishment of aboriginal rights did not occur prior to 1871. Further, aboriginal rights must not be unjustifiably infringed upon by the resource development activities of or authorized by the Crown. As a result of this decision, all resource management decisions are to be assessed as to their possible infringement of aboriginal rights and their potential for co-existence with aboriginal rights.

In 1991, the province committed to negotiating treaty settlements with First Nations in B.C. In the pre-treaty period, the province continued to enter into interim measures agreements with specific First Nations governments. In 1994, such an agreement was signed in Clayoquot Sound with the Central Region First Nations of the Nuu Chah Nulth Tribal Council. It establishes a joint management board for resource management decisions and land use planning in Clayoquot Sound. Interim agreements and other aboriginal issues are discussed in Section 9.2.1.

In 1994, the forest policy context in B.C. was qualitatively different than in 1984.

Forest policy, which until the last decade had been primarily concerned with maximizing production of timber and then of multiple resources, has changed. Sustaining ecological processes, rather than solely sustaining yield solely, has become the central goal. Maintaining a healthy, ecologically sound forest is viewed as one of the prerequisites to achieving social and economic goals — the close linkages between economy and environment are acknowledged. The concept of sustainability has developed from wise-use conservation, to sustained yield, to multiple use, and now to integrated use and ecosystem management.

The fact that public involvement was a requirement of the 1979 Forest Act was a key factor in opening the forest policy process to a broader group of interests. The type and extent of public participation evolved from being limited to review and comment to active contribution in key forest policy initiatives. The Old Growth Strategy, Forest Practices Code and CORE, for example, have been open, consultative processes that sought out a wide range of interests and opinions. Forest policy, once the primary interest of industry and the Ministry of Forests, now includes many new participants, such as the public, resource communities, aboriginal peoples, environmental groups and other resource professionals.

Forest policy in 1994 is not as simple as it was in the 1940s. The increasing scarcity of timber creates challenges for policy makers. New policies must be developed to enhance timber supply in the long term, while extracting more value from less timber in the short term and to maintain the forest industry’s economic benefits to British Columbians.

Table 9.1 Summary of key events and policy initiatives


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