British Columbia’s forests are its most commercially valuable renewable resource. The Ministry of Forests manages and protects B.C.’s forest and range land for the best short- and long-term balance of economic, social and environmental benefits for all British Columbians. Full public and stakeholder participation now help define B.C.’s forest management options and land-use decisions. To enable that process, the Land Use Coordination Office was established in February 1994 to increase and coordinate public involvement in integrating all forest values and allocating the use of provincial lands.
Crown provincial forests cover approximately 85 per cent of B.C., and provide timber, wildlife habitat, recreation opportunities, range lands, clean air, and a host of other values. In 1993/94, the ministry reinforced its commitment to securing the sustainability of those resources and their values through a series of complementary initiatives.
The three-year timber supply review (TSR) was initiated in 1992 to assess the consequences of existing forest practices, to identify what improved information was required to make reliable forecasts, and to ensure that timber harvest levels are sustainable over the long term in each of the 36 timber supply areas (TSAs) and 35 tree farm licence (TFL) areas in the province.
The four-step review process gathers information on timber resources through a technical analysis, analyzes socio-economic impacts of various harvest-level options, and summarizes these findings through a discussion paper. Public involvement and input are encouraged on the timber supply analysis, the socio-economic analysis, and especially the discussion paper. Taking into consideration the government’s economic and social objectives, as well as other information specified in Section 7 of the Forest Act, the chief forester then sets appropriate allowable annual cut (AAC) levels. AACs are the cornerstone of forest management in B.C.
In 1993/94, the technical analyses were completed for the Lillooet, North Coast and Williams Lake TSAs [*], bringing the provincial total to 12. Socio-economic assessments were published in five of these areas, and a TSR public discussion paper was released for the Revelstoke TSA [*], bringing that total to two. The chief forester set the AAC for the Fort Nelson TSA [*] in February 1994.
Once determined, an AAC must be reviewed by the chief forester at least every five years. The chief forester can make adjustments in the AAC in order to respond to new information, practices and policies, and to ensure the sustainability of the forest resource. Legislation requires the chief forester to review the AACs for all TSAs and TFLs in B.C. by December 31, 1995.
The Forest Practices Code will be the first comprehensive package of legislation, regulations, standards and field guides to govern forest practices in British Columbia. With jurisdiction over all public land, and all private land in TFLs and woodlot licences – more than 93 per cent of B.C.’s forest land – the Code will set rigorous standards for forest management, and enforce them with tough penalties to ensure that forest practices are environmentally sustainable.
During the 1993/94 fiscal year, two documents were released for public, stakeholder and First Nations review: the Forest Practices Code Discussion Paper, outlining a proposed legislative framework for the Code, and the Rules, outlining proposed forest practices that would eventually become Code regulations.
A wide range of public input helped shape these documents, as well as the Forest Practices Code of B.C. Act, and the draft regulations and proposed standards.
The Act was complete and ready for review by the Legislature by spring 1994. The Draft Regulations and Proposed Standards with Revised Rules and Field Guide References were also completed and released for public review. The Forest Service has already begun establishing special enforcement and monitoring teams to supplement existing monitoring personnel in all 43 forest districts. Code implementation is expected to begin in early 1995.
The multi-stakeholder Forest Sector Strategy Committee (FSSC) was formed in 1993 to develop a long-term, environmentally sustainable industrial strategy to enhance the economic and social benefits derived from B.C.’s forests. The FSSC met regularly through the 1993/94 fiscal year, and helped the government establish the priorities for the Forest Renewal Plan that was finalized in March 1994. Through increased stumpage and royalty rates, the government anticipates a regionally equitable investment of some $2 billion back into B.C.’s forests over the next five years.
The priorities of the plan are to:
Investments back into the forests will help offset anticipated reductions in harvest levels, strengthen the forest sector for the long term, and allow economic stabilization in forestry-dependent communities across the province.
The Forest Renewal Plan, which will be established by introduction of the B.C. Forest Renewal Act later in the spring of 1994, will complement and strengthen all other forest-land initiatives.
Anticipating the Forest Practices Code, a new Silviculture Practices Regulation was announced in February 1994 for the 1994 field season. The new regulation increased staff field enforcement powers, clarified reforestation and silviculture standards, outlined new soil-conservation requirements, and established tougher penalties for non-compliance.
Paving the way for the tougher standards of the Forest Practices Code, this regulation will be repealed and incorporated into the Code when the Code becomes law.
When the Ministry of Forests Act (1979) was introduced, the ministry’s main goal was to supply timber to develop and maintain the province’s timber-based economy. While its legal mandate has not changed, its organizational structure has changed significantly, reflecting changes in government, public priorities and ministry expectations.
The Ministry of Forests Report on Reorganization, released early in 1994, is the ministry’s response to changing public demands, environmental concerns, changing market expectations and new legislation – particularly the Forest Practices Code.
Foremost among the recommendations is a realignment of divisional responsibilities to streamline and prevent duplication between line and staff functions, and to deliver services more efficiently. Other recommendations address accountability at branch, region and district levels, and an increase in the level of resources devoted to land management.
An integral part of the implementation and maintenance of the Forest Practices Code, the ministry restructuring is scheduled for completion by December 31, 1995.
The B.C. Forest Service planted the first reforestation seedling in 1930. In 1989 it planted the two-billionth, and only four years later, to commemorate the three-billionth seedling, then-Forests Minister Dan Miller planted a western redcedar, the provincial tree, at the University College of the Cariboo in Kamloops on June 4, 1993.
Improved silvicultural methods and forest management practices have played a critical role in increasing the seedling survival rate over the past 10 years, from 60 per cent to 86 per cent, and the number of seedlings planted each year since 1980 has almost doubled. More than 225.7 million seedlings were planted on 188,720 hectares in 1993/94.
The Coastal Fisheries Forestry Guidelines (CFFGs) were developed in 1987 and revised in 1992 to ensure that logging practices in B.C. do not damage fish habitat. In January 1994, the Ministry of Forests and the Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks released the results of a second audit of forestry company compliance with the CFFGs between 1988 and 1992.
The first report, released in July 1992, was an audit of Vancouver Island cutblocks during the same time period. The second report included the Queen Charlotte Islands and the coastal mainland. Both reports were commissioned from Tripp Biological Consultants.
The second audit found that the guidelines were effective when they were applied, but that compliance needed improvement. Overall compliance ranged between 50 per cent and 80 per cent, averaging about 70 per cent. In response, the Ministry of Forests announced measures that included tougher silviculture regulations with stricter penalties for non-compliance, the publication of company compliance lists, and a compliance audit of the two remaining mainland coastal forest districts – Mid-Coast and Chilliwack – for spring 1994.
The second audit findings reinforced the need for a strong Forest Practices Code.
In May 1993, the ministry released Soil conservation guidelines for timber harvesting – Interior British Columbia, which was produced in response to reports of unacceptable levels of soil disturbance created by the ground-skidding harvesting systems used in the Interior. Under the new guidelines, which were developed by the Forest Service, industry, and Forestry Canada, harvesting operations must reduce the risk of any off-site impacts on other resource values.
These new guidelines anticipate the Forest Practices Code.
Government policy direction, combined with recent court decisions, have made the recognition of aboriginal rights an important factor in forest management. Through the B.C. Treaty Commission, the Interim Protection Measures Agreement, and First Nations’ policy forums, the government is moving toward settling treaties and recognizing First Nations’ interests in the land and resources. The ministry also provides support to ongoing, comprehensive claims negotiations.
In 1993/94, the First Nations Forestry Council continued its work on a strategic plan to increase First Nations participation in the provincial forest sector.
Aboriginal Forestry Advisors (AFAs) were placed in 21 forest district offices to act as community liaisons among First Nations, government and industry, and to improve communications, enhance consultation and promote local economic development through First Nations forestry.
In March 1994, the government signed an agreement with the First Nations in Clayoquot Sound, establishing a joint management board to oversee land-use and resource management decisions and to foster new economic opportunities in forestry, tourism and other businesses.
The Protected Areas Strategy (PAS) is a provincial land-use planning process that was established in 1992 to protect representative examples of the natural diversity of the province, as well as natural, cultural heritage, and recreational features. An important function of the PAS mandate is to determine which ecosystems are currently protected in sufficient amounts, and which are underrepresented.
Notable protected areas announcements during 1993/94 included the April 1993 decision to protect more than one-third of Clayoquot Sound, the June 1993 decision to protect almost one million hectares in the Tatshenshini-Alsek, and the January 1994 decision to create a 233,240-hectare park around Chilko Lake in the Chilcotin Mountains. By the end of March 1994, almost 8 per cent of B.C. was under some form of protected areas designation. This is consistent with the government’s objective of protecting 12 per cent of the provincial land base by the year 2000. It is also in line with the goal set by the United Nations’ Brundtland Report, Our Common Future.
The B.C. government established the independent Commission on Resources and Environment (CORE) in 1992 to develop a regional land-use strategy with an emphasis on economic, environmental and social sustainability, public participation and respect for aboriginal rights. Through extensive stakeholder consultation, CORE identifies and makes recommendations to Cabinet on strategies and land-use plans.
In 1993/94, CORE met in four regions with a history of land-use controversy: Vancouver Island, the Cariboo-Chilcotin, and the East Kootenay and West Kootenay-Boundary regions.
The Vancouver Island table concluded its meetings in November 1993, but was unable to agree on boundaries for the proposed land-use designations. However, the table did submit a final report to CORE, which helped the commission prepare a set of 90 land-use recommendations for Cabinet. These were released in February 1994, and included recommendations for dividing the Island into five land-use designations, and increasing the protected areas to cover 13 per cent of the Island. A government decision is expected later in 1994.
The Cariboo-Chilcotin table held its final meetings in early March 1994. Like the Vancouver Island table, it was unable to reach consensus on a land-use plan. Further talks were scheduled with individual sectors, for which CORE began work on an options report, to help stimulate further discussion.
The West Kootenay-Boundary and East Kootenay tables continued to meet in 1993/94. They are expected to complete negotiations and present a report to CORE later in 1994.
Land and Resource Management Planning (LRMP) is a consensus-building process that helps guide resource management objectives and strategies on Crown land at a local level. It is supported by planning tools such as 20-year plans for TFLs and forest licences, and site-specific operational harvesting plans. Land and Resource Management Plans (LRMPs) are usually developed by a steering committee of public and government representatives, or by community resource boards or councils.
In July 1993, Cabinet endorsed the document Land and Resource Management Planning: A Statement of Principles and Process, directing that 12 LRMP projects should be underway in 1994/95, subject to Treasury Board approvals. By January 1994, 12 projects were active, covering 30,470,000 hectares, or 32 per cent of the provincial land base. These areas lie outside three of the regions in which the regional planning process is being coordinated by CORE (Vancouver Island, Cariboo-Chilcotin, and Kootenay-Boundary.) In future, LRMPs will be prepared for all Crown lands, bringing the provincial total of planning areas to about 40.
By guaranteeing substantial investment in the forest sector through the Forest Renewal Plan, the Ministry of Forests solidified and strengthened its commitment to sustainability in 1993/94.
The series of initiatives supported by the Forest Renewal Plan will change the way B.C.’s forests are managed, protected and renewed. Improved forest management practices will increase the productivity of the commercial forest, help maintain biodiversity and jobs, and ensure opportunities for First Nations participation.
The initiatives described will also change the way land-use decisions are made in B.C., employing a multi-level process of consultation and consensus-building to reduce conflicts and meet the needs of all British Columbians now and in the future.