VANCOUVER. Leading environmental organizations are rejecting the British Columbia government proposal for forest tenure change that would increase the amount of land under the control of logging companies in the form of Tree Farm Licences. The Ancient Forest Alliance, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society BC, Canopy, ForestEthics Solutions, Greenpeace, Sierra Club BC, Wildsight and West Coast Environmental Law Association are calling on British Columbians to visit the government’s consultation website to reject the tenure rollover proposal and instead demand a coherent action plan to restore B.C.’s badly damaged forests.
“The tenure rollover proposal is an example of rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic,” said Jens Wieting of Sierra Club BC. “It’s short sighted to lock in corporate control of our forests by a few large companies while we are running out of forest to harvest. We are calling on Forest Minister Steve Thomson to exercise political leadership and take this proposal off the table and replace it with a comprehensive action plan for healthy forests and healthy communities,” said Wieting.
The B.C. government recently launched a new consultation website to invite comments on a proposal to allow companies to apply for a change in their forest tenures from volume-based to more secure area-based Tree Farm Licences. The proposed change would give companies exclusive logging rights over vast areas of forest land without meaningfully addressing the poor state of B.C’.s forests, the need for improved forest practices and regulation, or First Nations title and rights.
A similar initiative, Bill 8, was proposed before the 2013 election by Minister Thomson. It was withdrawn after being roundly rejected by diverse community and economic interests, environmental organizations and in some cases, logging company executives concerned about the reputation of B.C. forestry.
“We are disappointed that Minister Thomson is recycling a patchwork proposal that doesn’t improve forest management and has already been widely rejected,” said Valerie Langer of ForestEthics Solutions. “Instead, he should seek input for an overarching plan to address the poor health of our forests. The recent example of Canfor and West Fraser’s unsanctioned logging of almost one million cubic metres of green forest in the pine beetle salvage region without penalty illustrates how badly provincial forest management has faltered,” said Langer.
The environmental organizations are calling on the government to develop a comprehensive plan addressing the declining state of B.C.’s forests and forest management carried by a broad vision for a more diverse and resilient future for provincial forest lands.
A coherent action plan should address a lack of government oversight and enforcement, continuing mill closures and job losses, unsustainable rates of logging, native and non-native community control over forests, insufficient protection for critical species habitat, raw log exports, regional monopolies, shortfalls in reforestation, lack of inventory and research as a result of cutbacks, massive forest carbon emissions and climate impacts like the Mountain Pine Beetle and fire threats.
The environmental organizations are especially concerned about the forestry emergency in the Interior resulting from the Pine Beetle infestation and overharvesting, which will require a dramatic short-term reduction of the annual cut, accompanied by significant support for impacted communities to allow for economic recovery including forestry.
An example of a coherent long-term approach to achieve the goal of healthy forests and healthy communities is underway in B.C.’s Great Bear Rainforest, which will result in increasing conservation and a long-term timber supply based on Ecosystem-Based Management.
“Our world-class forests are deteriorating fast and business as usual is no longer an option,” said Stephanie Goodwin of Greenpeace. “We can and should expect more from our government when we have examples of comprehensive solutions such as the Great Bear Rainforest to draw upon,” said Goodwin.
BC government’s Area Based Forest Tenure Consultation website inviting public comments on tenure reform until end of May can be found here: http://engage.gov.bc.ca/foresttenures/
Background information and supporting material for concerned citizens who want to submit their comments can be found here: http://www.sierraclub.bc.ca/foresttenures
Jens Wieting, Sierra Club BC, Forest and Climate Campaigner, Cell: 604-354-5312
Stephanie Goodwin, Greenpeace, B.C. Director, Cell: 604-761-6722.
Valerie Langer, ForestEthics Solutions, Director BC Forest Conservation, Cell: 604-307-6448
Jessica Clogg, West Coast Environmental Law Association, Executive Director & Senior Counsel, Cell: 778-327-8964