Forest tenure change pulled back
VICTORIA – The B.C. government has withdrawn legislation to overhaul its system of Crown forest licences, after protests that it would give too much control to forest companies.
The amendments would have given the forests minister authority to convert licences to cut a certain volume of timber into area-based licences, to give companies greater incentive to invest in forest management.
"Clearly there are very significant benefits to area-based management," Forests Minister Steve Thomson said Tuesday. "But there has also been a lot of misinformation and perceptions created around what it is and what it isn't."
Thomson announced the proposed change after a special committee toured northern B.C. last year to study the effect of the pine beetle epidemic in the B.C. Interior. He said the delay of the legislation will not interfere with the rebuilding of the Burns Lake sawmill destroyed by an explosion and fire in January, 2012.
The B.C. government already has authority to award area-based licences to local governments and aboriginal communities. Commitments by six Burns Lake-area aboriginal bands were a key part of the decision by Oregon-based Hampton Affiliates to rebuild the mill.
Cariboo North MLA Bob Simpson organized a protest against the change, urging people to contact Thomson and ask for the delay. Simpson said the government was offering the change for the Burns Lake mill, but other forest companies would demand the same thing.
The result would be a series of regional monopolies over Crown forest resources that would push out independent mill owners who don't have large forest licences, Simpson predicted. He compared it to a similar change in coastal forest licences to Tree Farm Licences (TFLs), which was opposed by H.R MacMillan, B.C.'s first chief forester, in the 1950s.
Extending TFLs into the Interior would lead to the same result that has been seen on the B.C. coast, with most mills shut down and the forest degraded to second growth with low commercial value, Simpson said.