Revamped forest policy puts environment, people first

October 20, 2021 at 3:12 pm  BC, News, Politics

The Province has introduced legislation that will make B.C.’s approach to forests more focused on sustainability, return more benefits to people and local communities, and position B.C. to take full advantage of future economic opportunities through long-term planning.

Amendments to the Forest and Range Practices Act, introduced on Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021, by Katrine Conroy, Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, build on government’s vision of how B.C. cares for its forests. This legislation complements ongoing work to preserve old growth and supports smarter management of forests, ensuring that public benefits are the priority.

“Forestry policies – put in place two decades ago – have limited our ability to fight climate change, protect old growth forests and share the benefits with Indigenous and local communities,” Conroy said. “By increasing public control between government and First Nations, we’re committed to smarter management of our forests that prioritizes public benefits and engagement now and into the future.”

In June 2021, government released its vision of how it cares for its forests. When implemented, it will create jobs, support healthier forest ecosystems and deliver higher value from the province’s forests through three guiding principles: increased sector participation, enhanced stewardship and sustainability, and a strengthened social contract to increase public oversight.

The legislative changes introduced bring this vision closer to reality by increasing local control and prioritizing forest health. A key part of this will be replacing forest stewardship plans, which are now developed by the sector, over time with forest landscape plans. This will better address ecological and cultural values, in addition to timber values.

Through the development of forest landscape plans, the amendments will create new opportunities for shared decision-making between government and First Nations. This is aligned with government commitments to implement the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act passed in 2019.

First Nations, communities and the public will have more opportunities to view and comment on forest-sector harvesting plans, increasing public trust and participation in forest-management decisions.

The changes will also improve efforts to mitigate against climate change by allowing the chief forester to set stocking standards for replanting and reduce wildfire risk by creating wildland buffers between communities and forests.

New components of the legislation include:

  • reshaping British Columbia’s forest-management framework by repositioning government as the land manager;
  • reasserting the public interest in forest management;
  • equipping land managers with appropriate tools to establish resilient forests; and
  • supporting reconciliation with First Nations through changes that authorize government to establish landscape-level plans in collaboration with First Nations.

Changes to the act build on amendments made in 2019 and respond to feedback and analyses received over the past decade from First Nations, the Forest Practices Board, the forest industry, the Union of British Columbia Municipalities and others. Changes to the Forest Act, expected this fall, will support industry and Indigenous forest licence holders and further evolve forestry management in B.C.

The Forest and Range Practices Act governs how forest and range practices and activities are conducted on Crown land and came into effect in 2004. Proposed changes will come into effect by regulation expected over the next year.

Bill 23, the Forests Statutes Amendment Act, 2021, amends the Forest and Range Practices Act and other forest-related acts.

Quotes:

Chiefs of the Southern Dakelh Nation Alliance:

Chief Clifford Lebrun, Lhtako Dene Nation; Chief Liliane Squinas, Lhoosk’uz Dene Nation (Kluskus); Chief Leah Stump, Nazko First Nation –

“Improvements to the Forest and Range Practices Act pave the way for a new model of forest stewardship in British Columbia. We look forward to increased opportunities to work with the Province and forest licensees to ensure forest management practices support our title, rights and values for future generations. Our Indigenous Nations understand the need to restore balance to managing forests and forest ecosystems in B.C. Changes to the Forest and Range Practices Act are an important step in promoting resiliency, adaptability and stewardship of forest resources at a landscape scale, and enable a greater role for Indigenous Nations in forest management. Forest-landscape planning is an opportunity to reimagine how we collectively manage forest and range resources in ways that support reconciliation and recognition of our role as title holders in forest management consistent with our inherent rights and title.”

Chief Troy Baptiste and Councillor Chad Stump, ?Esdilagh First Nation –

“The current Forest and Range Practices Act and forest stewardship plans leave little room for Indigenous input. The improvements to the act are a step in the right direction toward meaningful government-to-government engagement. ?Esdilagh First Nation is committed to the continuance of the forest landscape planning process within the Quesnel Timber Supply Area for the protection of the biodiversity of the land. We have looked forward to the day when a collaboration would begin between Indigenous communities and the Province of British Columbia for the care of the forests. A day when traditional land knowledge and modern forest practices come together to ensure the health of the land for future generations.”

Garry Merkel, co-chair, Minister’s Forest and Range Practices Advisory Committee –

“The recent changes to the Forest and Range Practices Act legislation provide ways for us to overcome the shortcomings to the previous legislation.  One of the more significant changes is the addition of forest landscape plans into the planning framework. These plans provide a practical way to ensure that landscape level objectives such as managing biodiversity and other important values are addressed in a co-ordinated way, while ensuring that local concerns are accommodated through direct involvement in the planning process.”

John Betts, executive director, Western Forestry Contractor’s Association –

“This forest landscape planning legislation will enable British Columbia to better manage our forest resources in the face of climate change and the cumulative effects of resource development. For our reforestation sector, it means we will be managing stands and implementing forest practices more sensitive to the complexities and dynamics of how our forest and range ecosystems connect over the landscape and time.”

Quick Facts:

  • B.C. is 95 million hectares in size. More than half of that – 57.4 million hectares – is forested.
  • Approximately 22 million hectares of forested land is considered part of the public timber harvesting land base. Less than 1% is harvested each year.
  • There are more than 140 forest stewardship plans throughout the province.

Learn More:

To follow the progress of this bill through the legislature, visit: www.gov.bc.ca/frpa

B.C.’s vision to modernize forest policy: www.gov.bc.ca/modernforestpolicy

Progress on B.C.’s work to implement the recommendations of the Old Growth Strategic Review: www.gov.bc.ca/oldgrowth

A backgrounder follows.

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