Seeing the forest for the trees

Discussions surrounding changes to the forest act supposedly to resume this summer.

  • Jun. 27, 2013 5:00 p.m.

With discussions surrounding changes to the forest act supposedly to resume this summer, the Regional District of Bulkley Nechako (RDBN) is preparing a policy statement to help inform the process.

At the June 20, 2013 RDBN forestry committee meeting, Bill Miller, RDBN chair and director of area B, tabled a document summarizing his experience and thoughts on forestry in the region. Miller’s ‘Notes to Policy Paper on Forestry’ outlines points of discussion meant to inform future RDBN forestry discussions, and possibly a formal RDBN position on forest management.

“We want to influence policy decisions,” Miller said. “We’re concerned about the information they are using. We don’t feel they are hearing as much from us [the RDBN] as they should.”

Miller’s backgrounder on forest policy draws attention to two main concerns. First, the globalization of the forestry industry has shifted the emphasis from community ‘sustainability and resiliency’ towards a shareholder profit model where shareholders and owners often do not live within the regions affected by their company’s forest practices.

Second, B.C.’s log market is no longer a free market space. According to Miller, approximately 85 per cent of B.C.’s timber is not sold on the open market. Instead, large producers control the majority of B.C.’s timber supply. There is very little room for smaller entrepreneurs to enter the marketplace.

“At the very least, the lack of a free market place for logs has severely curtailed the development of a large and innovative secondary manufacturing sector,” Miller said.

“We need to be influencing government to make good policy decisions,” Miller added. “I believe that government – the provincial government especially – policies are driven by special interest groups, whether it’s big industry or other special interest groups that have the ear of the ministers. We need to be part of that because we represent the majority of the people.”

Not all directors that sit at the RDBN table share a common forestry background. Miller has spent a lifetime in forestry, and tabling the document has already had an impact on opening up discussion around forestry issues.

“Each one of our communities has different needs, desires, stakeholders, and visions of what they want for forest management,” Miller said. “We’re talking about what we can do as a region to support each one of our individual communities.”

On March 12, 2013, the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations (MFLNRO) announced that it would suspend changes to the forest act that would have facilitated the conversion of volume-based forest harvesting licenses to area-base, or tree farm, forest licenses.

At the time, MFLNRO Minister Steve Thompson, said that, “We will be initiating a process of broader public consultation this summer based on the recommendations of the special committee and the proposed legislation.”

The changes to the forest act were seen as instrumental to the province’s fulfilment of commitments made to Oregon-based Hampton Affiliates that formed the basis of their decision to rebuild the Babine Forest Products sawmill near Burns Lake. It was destroyed in a fatal explosion in January, 2012.


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