15 Community Organizations form a Province-wide Coalition to Change Forest Industry Practices.
A new citizen’s forestry coalition has emerged in BC urging government to make significant changes in the forest industry’s regulations and practices. This new organization is called the BC Coalition for Forestry Reform and it is growing in membership daily.
For years, we’ve known that the legislation that governs the Professional Reliance Model needs to be changed. And we’ve known that the Forestry and Range Practices Act (FRPA) that has managed forestry in our province for the last 15 years is far from acceptable. The FRPA is a mechanism that ignores values other than timber, including air, water, soil, wildlife, tourism, and recreation. The objectives set by the provincial government to protect such life-supporting components of our planet as biodiversity and ecosystems apply only to the extent that they do not “unduly reduce the supply of timber from British Columbia’s forests.” In an era of climate change, this policy is neither reasonable nor practical.
All around the province there is a growing discontent with logging companies that carry out cutting plans without proper consultation or social approval of people who live in the affected watersheds. The time has come to give back a significant voice in the planning process to neighbourhoods and communities. It is this shutting out of the public interest that is the most galling fact of the Professional Reliance Model.
Sit at the table with the logging company that is active in your home place and see how far you get with your concerns. Registered professional foresters (RPFs), who make final decisions, are expected to follow an ethic that includes protection of the public interest and whatever ecological factors are involved. The sad fact is that they are compelled to work principally in the interest of their timber-focused employers. The result has been a disastrous mismanagement of forest lands.
With the 2017 election of the new provincial government, the Professional Reliance Model has come under review. The public has been encouraged to submit their comments and describe their good and bad experiences of forestry practices in their local scene. By the time this article is published in TheGreenGazette, the deadline for submissions will have passed. Yet, the game is not over. It is expected that big changes will be called for. Recommendations after the model of the Cohen Commission might be expected, and it will be at this action phase of the review that the public can come forward and make itself heard in support of the recommendations.
We are aware that it is one thing to call for the revoking of the Professional Reliance Model, and another thing to establish a new and appropriate set of regulations and policies. A return to the conditions where we left off before the FRPA was instituted would make a good beginning, including the rebuilding of local forestry offices. But the BC Coalition for Forestry Reform is taking a far broader view.
Our membership is united in support of the following changes in the conduct of BC forestry:
- Forest management according to landscape-level planning, including a mandatory shared decision-making process with local communities.
- Landscape-level plans to be made available for public review and that incorporate public needs and values.
- Recognition of timber and non-timber values, including water, wildlife habitat, biodiversity, tourism, and recreation.
- The restoration of clear government discretionary powers with regard to the approval of harvest plans and practices, including an updated Forest Practices Code with accompanying Guidelines.
- A mandate to guide forestry planning on the basis of scientific data. Full recognition, for example, of global warming and adjustment of forest policies accordingly.
- A vigilant monitoring system, well budgeted and independent of corporate control, with attention given to riparian zones.
- Staffing levels and budgets adequate to support the proposed changes.
The BC Coalition for Forestry Reform invites interested parties, and especially communities and neighbourhood forestry committees, to join in the work of achieving meaningful, legally based participation in local forestry practices. Our new website can be viewed at BCCFR.org and/or contact Van Andruss at firstname.lastname@example.org.