Ministry of Forests Annual Report 1995/96
The Ministry of Forests manages and protects the province's forest and range lands for sustainability, to provide the optimum short- and long-term economic, social and environmental benefits for all British Columbians.
The stewardship function of the ministry has undergone significant change in the last few years, and continues to evolve as the Forest Service balances fiscal responsibilities against a complex range of other values. Protecting and enhancing those values is changing the way services are delivered by the ministry.
The government of British Columbia is committed to a long-term plan for economically and environmentally sustainable land use, and the Ministry of Forests plays a pivotal role in that plan. The ministry is directly responsible for two of the cornerstones of forest management in British Columbia: the Forest Practices Code, and the Timber Supply Review. The ministry also supports and contributes to other government initiatives, like the Protected Areas Strategy, the Forest Renewal Plan, land use plans, and the work of the BC Treaty Commission.
Forestry is linked to long-term planning, and transitional provisions of the Act ensure an orderly and fair two-year transition from the contractual to the statutory obligations. Over the transition period, from December 15, 1995 to June 15, 1997, phase-in requirements for various plans and permits come into effect, "stepping up" to full compliance, June 15, 1997, with all planning aspects of the code. The Forest Service is working to implement the code in a manner that minimizes disruption to the forest sector and limits the impact of the code to a 6 per cent reduction in the province's timber harvest over the next 10 years.
Backed by a system of tough enforcement, stiff penalties, increased monitoring, new requirements, and independent audits, development of the code drew overwhelming support from the public, First Nations and other forest stakeholders – all of whom played a role in the process.
The Forest Practices Code is the first comprehensive package of legislation, regulations and guidebooks to govern forest practices in British Columbia. It replaced 20 provincial statutes, 700 sets of regulations and more than 3,000 sets of guidelines – many of them overlapping or contradictory, and most of them unenforceable. By driving prudent management of the forests, sound resource stewardship, the balance of a variety of values, conservation of biodiversity, and restoration of environmentally damaged areas, the code will help provide certainty about B.C.'s forest management for the forest industry, forest workers and forest-dependent communities – as well as the international community.
Research by Westland Resource Group, commissioned by the govern-ment and released in February 1996, compared B.C.'s Forest Practices Code with legislation from 14 other jurisdictions around the world and showed that B.C.'s code was among the toughest and most comprehensive. Compared with jurisdictions like Ontario, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Finland, Germany, Nova Scotia, five regions of the U.S. and three regions of Australia, British Columbia's legislation was found to be particularly effectiv in its requirements for integrated resource management, the high standards it sets for forest companies, and the scope of public participation in its development.
The Forest Practices Code of British Columbia Act established an independent Forest Practices Board, representing a range of public interests, to audit forest management performance by government and industry, and to investigate public complaints. Between June 15 and December 31, 1995, the board had received 19 complaints. Of those, eight files had been closed by the end of the year.
In addition, the Act also created an independent Forest Appeals Commission to review enforcement actions taken by the ministry under the code. The tribunal, which makes recommendations to Cabinet about review and appeal procedures under the code, has broad powers to confirm, vary or rescind decisions made by ministry officials. The 16 members of the commission, representing industry, labor, communities, environmental groups, and First Nations, were appointed on March 22, 1996 for a one-year term.
The branch completed its first year of operations during 1995/96. Highlights are included in this annual report on page 47, and full results are available in The Annual Report of Compliance and Enforcement Statistics for the Forest Practices Code, June 15, 1995 - June 15, 1996.
The TSR was launched in 1992 as a three-year undertaking to assess the province's timber resource, taking into account current forestry practices and non-timber values, in order to make reliable timber resource fore-casts, and to ensure that timber harvest levels are appropriate and sustainable over the long term in each of the 37 timber supply areas (TSAs) and 34 tree farm licence (TFL) areas in B.C.
The five-step process for TSAs (see diagram) includes significant public involvement and input before the chief forester sets the allowable annual cut (AAC) and issues a rationale statement. AACs are the cornerstone of forest management in B.C., and take into consideration the government's economic and social objectives, as well as other information specified in section 8 of the Forest Act. Legislation requires the chi forester to review AACs at least every five years, but he can redetermine AACs before the end of that period, in order to respond to new information, practices and policies, and to ensure the sustainability of the forest resource.
In 1995/96, timber supply analyses were completed for nine TSAs, bringing the provincial total to 35. Socio-economic analyses and public discussion papers were published in 11 of these areas, and the chief forester set allowable annual cuts for 19 TSAs, bringing the total number of new AACs set for TSAs to 25.
In order to reflect the broader responsibilities of TFL holders, the process for TFLs is slightly different than that for TSAs, but both processes result in a thorough review of information and the determination of AACs for each of the 34 TFLs. In 1995/96, the chief forester set AACs for four TFLs, bringing that total to 15.
Steps in the timber supply review process
In April 1995, the deadline for completion of the Timber Supply Review was extended by one year, to December 31, 1996. By the end of the 1995/96 fiscal year, only one timber supply analysis, socio-economic analysis and public discussion paper remained to be completed, and new AAC determinations were outstanding for 12 TSAs and 19 TFLs.
In addition to the Timber Supply Review, in 1995/96 the chief forester reviewed the short- and long-term impacts of the Forest Practices Code on a representative sample of six of B.C.'s TSAs. In the Forest Practices Code Timber Supply Analysis, February 1996, it was estimated that code requirements will create a net decline of approximately 6 per cent on provincial harvest levels over the long term. In the short term – the first decade – forecast declines in timber supply range from 3.3 per cent (Cariboo region) to 9.2 per cent (Vancouver region).
The regional planning process begun by CORE is continued by land and resource management plans (LRMPs). These plans involve the public, stakeholders and the provincial government in a consensus-building process that is designed to reflect sub-regional/local priorities and objectives in resource use and management decisions for Crown lands.
LRMPs are closely tied to the Forest Practices Code, and, to a lesser extent, Forest Renewal BC. LRMPs divide each planning area into zones, and apply all values – from protecting habitat and biodiversity, to maintaining jobs and local economies – to resource-use decisions made at the local level. The plans set strategic direction for planning areas; the code explains how to achieve the goals; and Forest Renewal BC may provide funding to achieve the goals.
In addition to the four regional land-use plans in place for key regions in the province, 14 LRMPs were in place by the end of 1995/96. Land-use planning is expected to be in place for the entire province by the year 2000.
Between 1992 and the end of 1995/96, more than 200 new parks and protected areas had been established in the province – putting B.C. more than half way to the government's goal of doubling the protected area total, from 6 per cent to 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.
Work to establish new protected areas continues, mainly through comprehensive land and resource management plans.
The government established the Scientific Panel for Sustainable Forest Practices in Clayoquot Sound in 1993 to develop the highest possible forest management standards for the 40 per cent of the sound that is available for general resource use. On July 6, 1995, the provincial government made good on its promise to accept in full the panel's final recommendations, which will mean a fundamental shift from managing the area for particular products, to managing for sustainable ecosystems.
Key changes include an end to conventional clearcut logging in the sound, and a cap of 5 per cent on land for roads in any watershed's harvestable area. Harvesting levels must be based on watershed planning rather than a predetermined allowable annual cut, and new cutting permits will have to meet the panel's recom-mendations on cutblock size.
Undisturbed watersheds will not be open to logging until comprehensive ecological assessments can be completed.
The ministry will monitor and evaluate the ecological, social and economic impacts of the ecosystem-based approach as the more-than 120 recommendations are implemented.
The success of the pilot project will be evaluated before decisions are made to implement the measures being tested.
Announced in April 1994, the Forest Renewal Plan was a key element of the government's response to an impending crisis in the forest sector. That strategy also included adopting an inclusive approach to land-use planning to resolve resource-use conflicts, the Timber Supply Review to get the up-to-date information needed to establish sustainable harvest levels, and the Forest Practices Code to establish the higher standard of forestry practices required to respect all forest values and meet the expectations of British Columbians and global forest products markets.
The Forest Renewal Plan was designed to ensure a smooth transition to sustainable forestry while protecting jobs and communities. The key element of the plan was the creation of Forest Renewal BC, a partnership of all forest interests which receives money from forestry in the form of stumpage fees and royalties, and invests it back into the forests – restoring and enhancing the health and productivity of the forests, protecting jobs and strengthening forest communities.
But there was more to the plan: the government also committed to developing policies that promote better stewardship of the forest, and to working with the forest sector to get more value and jobs from every tree harvested. Forest-sector employment in 1996 was up by a few hundred jobs from the year before, and up several thousand from four years ago when the Forest Renewal Plan was being developed.
The 21,000 new forest-sector jobs are expected to come from industry job commitments in exchange for the continued right to harvest trees on public land, and increased support and industry wood-fibre commitments to the value-added manufacturing sector so that it can create thousands of new jobs.