The ministry also works at a provincial level with the Commission on Resources and Environment (CORE), on the provincial land use strategy and goals. Recognizing that the long-term health of economies and communities depends on sustainable ecosystems and that effective ecosystem representation must consider the sustainability of economies and communities, CORE has worked with government and public representatives to develop broad principles to guide all planning. CORE produced a land use charter in 1992 that incorporates principles of environmental, economic and social sustainability to guide land use planning. The charter, which also incorporates earlier work by the B.C. Round Table on Environment and by the Economy and the Forest Resources Commission, was endorsed in principle by the provincial government in June 1993.
CORE is consulting with ministries and the public to develop a comprehensive set of land use goals to integrate resource and environmental management. Goals for natural resource lands, human settlement, protected areas, cultural heritage, environment, coastal and shore lands, economic development, transportation, conservation of energy and materials, and aboriginal interests were recommended to government in January 1994. In early 1994, CORE published discussion papers on proposed strategic land use policies and indicators to support the goals. The Ministry of Forests has actively participated in developing land use goals, strategic policies and recommendations on the structure for delivering plans.
The Protected Areas Strategy incorporates earlier initiatives, including the Old Growth Strategy project and Parks and Wilderness for the ‘90s, which arose in response to increasing public concerns about the loss of wilderness and old-growth values due to resource development. In 1993, British Columbia formally adopted a goal of doubling (to 12%) the protected areas in the province. The Protected Areas Strategy defines government policy on protected areas and is used by land use planning processes to assist in recommending land allocations to cabinet.
Since the Protected Areas Strategy was initiated, a number of new protected areas have been established or announced, including the Tatshenshini, Khutzeymateen, Ts’yl os, Nisga’a, Kitlope and several areas in Clayoquot Sound, Vancouver Island and the Cariboo-Chilcotin. Protected areas in B.C. have increased more than 50% over the last 10 years, from about 5% of the province in 1984 to more than 8% (about 8.2 million hectares) by the end of 1994.
Securing protected areas is one component of land use planning. Securing areas to maintain the forested land base available for timber harvest is another component. In June 1994, the government introduced legislation (the Forest Land Reserve Act) to create the Forest Land Reserve. The Forest Land Reserve is intended to protect the commercial land base available for:
Crown forest lands and privately managed forest lands will be included in the Forest Land Reserve. An independent Forest Land Commission must approve any application to remove land from the reserve.
The Ministry of Forests also works with other ministries on a variety of management protocols and policies such as the culture and heritage resources protocol and the commercial backcountry recreation policy. The Ministry of Forests and the Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks co-chair the Integrated Resource Planning Committee, which develops provincial policy, procedures and standards for subregional Land and Resource Management Planning.
The province has prepared regional land use plans for Vancouver Island, the Cariboo-Chilcotin and Kootenay-Boundary. CORE land use recommendations for Vancouver Island (including protected areas) were announced in February 1994, for the Cariboo-Chilcotin in July 1994 and for Kootenay-Boundary in November 1994. In response, the province made land use decisions for Vancouver Island in May 1994 and for the Cariboo-Chilcotin in October 1994. As of January 1995, a decision regarding Kootenay-Boundary is pending. In the process, government is committed to assessing community impacts and environmental and socioeconomic implications before decisions are made.
Responsibility and accountability for Land and Resource Management Plans are shared among various resource ministries. Because the Ministry of Forests has decentralized resource management expertise and a well-established information base, it is a major contributor to the program. In the LRMP process, teams of field-level resource managers from several ministries work closely with public representatives to develop land- and resource-use recommendations for a planning area.
Operational planning defines the site-specific activities that occur within higher-level planning units. Examples of operational plans are forest development plans, silvicultural prescriptions, access management plans and logging plans. Operational planning for forest resources is governed, in part, by the Forest Practices Code.
As with all levels in the planning process, local and operational planning processes involve the Ministry of Forests, other resource agencies and the public.
The legislative authority for the Forest Practices Code is the Forest Practices Code of British Columbia Act. Supporting this legislation is a framework of regulations, provincial and regional standards, field guides and training modules, some of which are in the final stages of completion. The Code applies to practices on Crown provincial lands and woodlot licences. It also provides regulation-making authority on privately managed and unmanaged forest land, where applicable. In particular it establishes compliance and enforcement powers to a far greater extent than previously with a greater range of penalties for non-compliance. It also establishes an independent Forest Practices Board to oversee an independent audit process and act upon public complaints. The Code requires opportunities for full public involvement.
Scientists generally believe that protecting areas from disturbance is not in itself sufficient to protect or maintain biodiversity. For this reason, a twofold approach is being taken in B.C. First, the Protected Areas Strategy ensures that significant ecological, recreational and cultural features are protected from commercial management activities. Second, measures to maintain biodiversity will be implemented through the Forest Practices Code in areas designated for integrated use. The protection of critical areas, complemented by the sensitive management of others, is intended to maintain natural biodiversity.
The provincial biodiversity research program is jointly coordinated by the ministries of Forests and Environment, Lands and Parks. Its goal is to gain a better understanding of the organisms and relationships among various ecosystem components (including ecosystem processes) and how they change with forest management. Measures to maintain biodiversity will be adjusted as new knowledge is gained through the biodiversity research program.
A report released in March 1991 concluded that AACs for most timber supply areas were out-of-date, because they were based on analyses and assumptions of forest management practices that were out-of-date. The report recommended that an accelerated review of the province’s timber supply be undertaken and that new analytical methods be developed to reflect current forest management guidelines and practices.
Consequently, in 1992, the Ministry of Forests initiated the Timber Supply Review process. It has three major objectives:
Based on the results of the Timber Supply Review process, an assessment is conducted to evaluate the impacts of changes in timber supply on environmental, social and economic conditions in each local area. The role of the forest sector in sustaining employment and community development is considered, as well as the potential effects on environmental values such as fish and wildlife populations and habitat. In the process, a public discussion paper is produced to summarize and present the results of the timber supply analysis and socioeconomic assessment.
The chief forester determines the AAC based on the above information and other relevant factors, This determination and a statement of the rationale for the determination is released to the public, along with a summary of public input. The Timber Supply Review process is discussed in more detail in Chapter 3.
As of December 31, 1994, timber supply reviews had been completed for 23 TSAs, and four new AACs had been determined. Twelve new AACs have also been determined for TFLs. The legislation requires that timber supply reviews be completed and new AACs determined, for all TSAs and TFLs by December 31, 1995.