Public input sought on forest licences

The public is being invited to provide input into converting some volume-based forest licences to area-based tree farm licences.

The public is being invited to provide input into converting some volume-based forest licences to area-based tree farm licences.

The announcement of the consultation included the release of a discussion paper on the topic available at: engage.gov.bc.ca/foresttenures, where comments can be made which will be part of the consultation.

The forest tenures or licences are agreements allowing a person or company logging rights on Crown land.

With volume-based licences, certain volumes are allotted and multiple licensees can operate in a timber supply area. With area-based licences, the licensee essentially has exclusive harvesting rights within a certain area.

B.C. is the only province which manages forest land mostly through a volume-based system, the rest use mostly area-based systems. B.C allocates about 60 per cent of logging on Crown land through volume-based forest licences.

The call for input marks the beginning of a public engagement process looking at converting some forest licences as one of the recommendations which came out of the all-party special committee on mid-term timber supply report in 2012 which looked at ways to address the looming mid-term timber supply shortage due to the mountain pine beetle.

Thomson said the proposed changes to area-based licences are meant to encourage longer-term investment in planting and silviculture for increased productivity in the long-term.

NDP forests critic Norm Macdonald said the experience with existing area-based tenures, called tree farm licences, is that they have not improved forest stewardship. About 15 per cent of B.C. lumber production is from tree farm licences, and the ministry can’t show evidence that they are better managed, he said.

Many of the existing tree farm licences are on the B.C. coast, where log exports have increased.

Macdonald said B.C.’s big forest companies have lobbied Premier Christy Clark for the change, which effectively privatizes large tracts of Crown forest, and now the forests ministry is being directed to implement the change.

Consultation will include on online conversation as well as conversations compiled by independent facilitator Jim Snetsinger after he travels to at least 10 B.C. communities to consult with stakeholders, First Nations, local governments and the public.

The consultation tour will have stops in Nanaimo, Kamloops, Prince George, Quesnel, Burns Lake, Williams Lake, Smithers, Dawson Creek, Cranbrook and Vancouver. Details will be posted on the consultation website when they are finalized.

Snetsinger is a former provincial chief forester and he will produce a report and recommendations after the consultation is completed.

The consultation period will run until May 31, 2014, and the report is due June 30, 2014.

With files from Tom Fletcher