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BC Government: New vision for sustainable forest policy puts people, communities first

Press Release

VICTORIA – The B.C. government has set out its vision for a forestry sector that is more diverse, competitive, focused on sustainability and puts people and communities first.

“Forests are at the heart of our identity here in B.C. They are essential to a healthy environment and provide good jobs to tens of thousands of British Columbians,” said Premier John Horgan. “We inherited our beautiful ancient forests, and we owe it to future generations to protect them. We have already taken action by deferring hundreds of thousands of hectares and protecting 1,500 groves with big, iconic trees. But we know there is more to do. Current forestry policies – put in place two decades ago – don’t adequately address today’s challenges. They have limited our options to adapt to the impacts of climate change, protect old growth, share the benefits fairly with local communities or move forward on reconciliation.”

Government’s vision to modernize forest policy and protect old growth will take time to fully implement. It is focused on three guiding principles: increased sector participation, enhanced stewardship and sustainability, and a strengthened social contract to give government more control over management of the sector.

The released intentions paper reinforces government’s other actions on forests, including the commitment to implement all recommendations coming out of the independent old growth review. Additionally, the proposed changes to forestry policy will address the rapid decline of available timber and promote higher-value wood products like mass timber. It also recognizes that responsibly managed forests are a legacy for future generations. They are a high-value resource in a global market demanding more sustainably sourced goods.

“The future of the forest industry impacts us all, so what we do now is vitally important,” said Katrine Conroy, Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development. “We are taking action to not only address the challenges facing forestry in British Columbia today, but also so our children and grandchildren may benefit from the opportunities our forests provide.”

The proposed changes to forest policy as outlined in a new intentions paper include a compensatory framework to redistribute forest tenures to Indigenous Nations, forest communities and small operators. In addition, the paper includes the continued commitment to act on the recommendations of the Old Growth Strategic Review in collaboration with Indigenous leaders, local governments, labour, industry and environmental groups. This work must balance the need to support and protect workers with the need for additional old-growth protection.

Quotes:

Dallas Smith, President, Nanwakolas Council, and Great Bear Relic –

“We are happy to see this government is ready to continue talking about solutions to forest health and management. There are a lot of challenging issues that need to be discussed with many parties, but respectful collaboration and dialogue will have greater impact and a more efficient path forward than the recent increase in activism. This paper confirms the need for the Crown and First Nations to continue to work together with all the necessary stakeholders on where that path goes.”

Brian Frenkel, president, Union of BC Municipalities –

“The forest sector is integral to the well-being of B.C. communities, whether they are large or small, rural or urban. Finding a way forward that recognizes and mitigates climate change, the broader values of forests to communities and contributes to sustainable local jobs and economies is crucial, and I’m pleased to see the Province moving in this direction.”

Bob Brash, executive director, Truck Loggers Association –

“While early days in this initiative, the principles of enhancing participation and strengthening the forest sector, improving its social contract and enhancing stewardship are admirable objectives. If the end result of working with organizations like ours and Indigenous peoples for improved forestry policies results in increased certainty for B.C.’s forestry workers and forest-dependent communities, while improving investment opportunities towards moving the sector forward, we can collectively be proud of this accomplishment.”

Bob Simpson, mayor of Quesnel –

“We all want to do forestry in a way that supports local communities, respects the need for reconciliation with Indigenous peoples and considers biodiversity and ecosystem health. I want to recognize the Province for taking this step and look forward to continuing to work together developing the policy and guidance that will make this change happen.”

Dan Battistella, president, Interior Lumber Manufacturers’ Association (ILMA) –

“As an association that represents many of the last remaining small and medium-sized independent specialty manufacturing facilities, the ILMA has always advocated for a diverse industry that extracts the most value from our sustainably managed forests, and that provides for family supporting jobs. This modernizing forest policy initiative announced today looks to redefine the future of our industry by moving to a more value focus with more community involvement. We are excited to work with government to ensure many positive outcomes are realized from this approach.”

Quick Facts:

  • Forestry is a key part of B.C.’s economy. In 2020, forest products represented 29% of B.C.’s total exports, valued at $11.5 billion. Forestry also provides good-paying jobs to more than 50,000 workers. Government’s commitment will balance the needs of the provincial economy with the concerns from industry that include job losses, mill closures and inadequate Indigenous collaboration.
  • The intentions paper is government’s response to the long-term vision for forestry that the industry has been asking for.
  • It also reflects the feedback government has received from all forestry stakeholders and Indigenous Nations to address some of the issues facing the industry.
  • In 2018-19, most major Interior forestry companies in B.C. announced curtailments at their sawmills due to lower lumber prices, reduced demand, high log costs, softwood lumber border tariffs and issues in accessing timber.
  • Though there has been a rebound in the industry and lumber prices are currently high, 20 lumber mills are in active, current or planned curtailment or closure status.
  • In addition, there have been 1,620 permanent, 420 temporary and 820 indefinite job losses in the forestry sector.

Learn More:

A summary presentation of government’s intentions paper is available here: https://news.gov.bc.ca/files/Modernize_Forest_Policy_Presentation.pdf

To view the modern forest policy, visit: https://www.gov.bc.ca//modernforestpolicy

Three backgrounders follow.

Contacts:

Lindsay Byers
Press Secretary
Deputy Communications Director
Office of the Premier
[email protected]

Ministry of Forests, Lands,
Natural Resource Operations
and Rural Development
Media Relations
250 896-4320


BACKGROUNDER 1

Key changes of a modernized forest policy

The intentions paper sets out government’s vision for a forestry sector that is diverse, competitive, focused on sustainability, puts people first and is aware of its crucial role in improving certainty by working with B.C.’s Indigenous peoples. The paper outlines the actions government will take in the coming months to address the main challenges currently facing British Columbia’s forestry sector. They are:

Sustainability:

B.C. has practiced sustainable forestry for decades. But the province’s timber supply is decreasing due to naturally induced factors like climate change, the mountain pine beetle epidemic and large wildfires. Additionally, land-use protections for conservation have impacted supply. Greater land-use protections are needed for conservation. To enhance stewardship while addressing ecosystem health and resilience, policy changes are needed. B.C. will continue to be a world leader in providing sustainable forest products and forest policy that considers the ever-changing environment.

Reconciliation:

There is a need to increase forestry’s economic and management opportunities for Indigenous peoples. Doing so aligns with the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act and advances the well-being of Indigenous communities. It also reduces uncertainty and strengthens confidence in the industry.

People and communities:

For decades, the forestry industry has provided good-paying jobs, supporting families in many B.C. communities. As these communities strive to become more resilient, there is an opportunity for the Province to work with them to better consider their interests. Local access to timber can support diversified manufacturing, focused on value rather than volume. Local communities should be engaged in discussions about wildfires, local employment and sustainable management of the forests that surround and nurture British Columbians.

Competitiveness:

Forest products are globally traded. They are desired for their lower carbon footprint, are produced sustainably in the province and are verified by third-party forest certification organizations. B.C’s forestry sector must continue to be competitive on the global stage, keeping in mind those who invest in B.C. and provide good-paying jobs.

Fairness for British Columbians:

The forests are owned by British Columbians. It is important to ensure they receive fair returns on their asset.

Contacts:

Lindsay Byers
Press Secretary
Deputy Communications Director
Office of the Premier
[email protected]

Ministry of Forests, Lands,
Natural Resource Operations
and Rural Development
Media Relations
250 896-4320


BACKGROUNDER 2

Principles of a modernized forest policy

Government’s intention paper sets out its vision for a forestry sector that is diverse, competitive and focused on sustainability. It puts people first. Over the past few years, government has asked what should be done and what should be considered. This vision has been drafted with an understanding of the crucial necessity of working with Indigenous peoples. The steps taken in the months ahead, outlined here, are intended to achieve this vision and modernize forest policy in B.C.

Guiding principles and policy intentions:

Government will fulfil its vision for the future of the forest sector and B.C.’s forests based on three principles it has heard repeatedly from partners, stakeholders and communities. The Province will also fulfil its commitment to collaborate and co-operate with Indigenous peoples. The three principles and related policy intentions are:

1. Increasing forestry sector participation:

  • Creating future tenure opportunities for new players – enhance the legal mechanisms to allow tenure to be redistributed for harvesting purposes, encouraging diversification in the forestry sector;
  • Providing clarity on compensation for lost harvesting rights – establish a clear framework that lays out where and under what circumstances compensation for lost harvesting rights will apply;
  • Creating flexibility when forest licences need to be reduced – allow government to consider pressures faced by small operators or Indigenous or local community interests when reductions to allowable annual cuts (AACs) are divided among licence holders;
  • Revising tenure disposition considerations – build on the success of 2019’s Bill 22 in addressing tenure concentration and public-interest considerations when a tenure transfer or change of control occurs;
  • Enhancing revenue oversight for log exports – ensure government receives the fees it charges when logs are exported, rather than processed here in B.C. (fee-in-lieu);
  • Evolving BC Timber Sales policy for maximum sales restrictions – consider an alternative approach to allow for more sale opportunities at smaller volumes to smaller or value-added manufacturers.

2. Enhancing stewardship and sustainability:

  • Continuing to improve the Forest and Range Practices Act – better incorporate, manage and conserve forest values and ensure Indigenous peoples can be involved at the start of planning;
  • Reintegrating prescribed and cultural fire into forest management – work with Indigenous partners and stakeholders to bring these practices back into B.C.’s forest management toolkit;
  • Advancing apportionment – rebalance tenure opportunities and improve the apportionment process to consider harvest sustainability and the interests of local Indigenous peoples and stakeholders;
  • Reviewing the cut control process – review and improve how cut control is designed to encourage tenure holders to use their AAC in a way that honours the intended harvest profile;
  • Improving accountability in tenure management – strengthen the accountability of tenure holders who are in a position of public trust;
  • Increasing discretion in authorizing activities – provide statutory decision-makers the discretion to consider forest values like water, timber, wildlife health and Indigenous heritage when issuing cutting or road permits;
  • Supporting silviculture management and innovation investments – help stands grow back faster and healthier and preserve more old-growth trees through innovative practices.

3. Strengthening the social contract:

  • Modernizing tenure replaceability conditions – ask tenure holders to demonstrate a clear commitment to sustainability and find creative ways to grow the industry, considering Indigenous partnerships, forest sustainability and climate change;
  • Increasing fibre access for local value-added manufacturers – work with the value-added sector to support competitiveness, reduce the amount of slash piles burnt after harvest and develop a more value-added sector-focused program for timber sales;
  • Promoting the use of wood and mass timber – improve the legislative framework to ensure wood, mass timber and emerging biomass-based materials are more clearly a priority in public buildings, in co-ordination with B.C.’s mass-timber action plan and CleanBC;
  • Revising area-based tenure-specific pricing policy – harmonize rate structures to increase fairness between different licence types;
  • Strengthening compliance and enforcement – reinforce government’s ability to address poor practices and behaviours through public reporting and penalties;
  • Protecting good jobs – support workers by considering labour in tenure transfers, continue to ensure the sustainability of contractors and advance the Ministry of Labour’s industrial inquiry commission.

In addition to the three principles outlined above, government will also consider enabling shared decision-making as guided by the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act, as this is a priority for both Indigenous Nations and the First Nations Leadership Council.

Contacts:

Lindsay Byers
Press Secretary
Deputy Communications Director
Office of the Premier
[email protected]

Ministry of Forests, Lands,
Natural Resource Operations
and Rural Development
Media Relations
250 896-4320


BACKGROUNDER 3

Actions to address old growth recommendations

British Columbians value their old-growth forests and government is working to protect them for future generations.

Government’s vision to modernize forest policy complements its ongoing work to implement the independent panel’s recommendations on old growth forests.

On Sept. 20, 2020, the Province announced it was taking a new, holistic approach to managing old growth, informed by the independent panel report, A New Future for Old Forests.

As a first step, B.C., in collaboration with Indigenous Nations, immediately deferred the harvesting of 196,000 hectares of old growth in nine areas – this is equivalent to roughly 480 Stanley Parks. Government also enacted the Special Tree Regulation to protect up to 1,500 exceptionally large, individual trees. More information on this regulation is available here: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/farming-natural-resources-and-industry/forestry/timber-tenures/qa_stpr.pdf

The Province also committed to engaging with Indigenous peoples, workers and communities to build a plan to protect B.C.’s ancient forests for future generations, and this work is underway. Since September 2020, government has taken the following actions:

  • As a first step, government engaged with the First Nations Leadership Council to discuss the report and begin work on the approach for recommendation No. 1: “engaging the full involvement of Indigenous leaders and organizations to review the report and work with the Province on any subsequent policy or strategy development and implementation.” Since the report’s release, government has met with several Indigenous Nations and organizations to work together on recommendations and will continue to reach out to more Nations.
  • Building on the government’s announcement in 2020 to defer 196,000 hectares of old-growth forests from harvesting, work is underway with Indigenous leaders and in consultation with stakeholders to identify potential additional deferral areas and assess their potential economic impacts.
  • More detailed information on the status of old growth conditions and trends and compliance with existing targets (recommendation 5 and 7) are in development through the Forest and Range Evaluation Program. More information will be released this summer and fall. Regular updates and all available old growth information are online here: www.gov.bc.ca/oldgrowth
  • Government has developed a timeline and path to implementing all 14 recommendations in collaboration with Indigenous Nations, communities and stakeholders: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/farming-natural-resources-and-industry/forestry/stewardship/old-growth-forests/old_growth_path_forward.pdf

Facts about old growth in B.C.:

  • While the vast majority of old growth in B.C. – 10 million hectares – is protected or not economical to harvest, government is taking action to change current forest management practices in response to the Old Growth Strategic Review. These changes will better support the effective implementation or achievement of the stated and legislated public objectives for old forests.
  • There are 13.7 million hectares of old growth in British Columbia. This is equivalent to an area more than four times the size of Vancouver Island.
  • Old growth makes up about 23% of B.C.’s forests.
  • Currently, only 27% of the old growth in B.C. is legal and economical to harvest.
  • Characteristics of old growth can include tree species, tree age, tree size, surrounding forest structure, ecological function and historical disturbance. While characteristics vary, old-growth forests tend to have more diverse plant and animal life than younger forests.
  • Old-growth ecosystems support a wide range of plants and animals, from mosses and liverworts to large mammals and some species at risk. These forests also provide habitat for many birds, mammals and amphibians.
  • Old-growth stands are protected in many areas throughout the province using various measures including Old Growth Management Areas, Wildlife Habitat Areas and in conjunction with protections for species like caribou, marbled murrelet and northern goshawk.

Learn More:

To see the old growth strategy, visit: www.gov.bc.ca/oldgrowth

Contacts:

Lindsay Byers
Press Secretary
Deputy Communications Director
Office of the Premier
[email protected]

Ministry of Forests, Lands,
Natural Resource Operations
and Rural Development
Media Relations
250 896-4320

Connect with the Province of B.C. at: news.gov.bc.ca/connect

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