This past month, the Forest Practices Board made a visit to Terrace and Prince Rupert to talk about forestry. Tim Ryan, Chair of the Board, and Sam Coggins, Director of Investigations and a former Terrace resident, made the trip. During the visit, they had the opportunity to meet with representatives from the City of Terrace, the City of Prince Rupert, the Planning and Implementation Committee, the Terrace FLNRO office and Ellis Ross, Skeena Sawmills, Skeena Wild, the Kitselas, Kitsumkalum, Tahltan, Haisla, Gitga’at, and Metlakatla First Nations, and the North Coast Skeena First Nations Stewardship Society.
It was very apparent that people up here care about their forests and what’s happening in them. We heard about a number of issues, including harvesting of young stands of trees, forest stewardship plans, consultation with First Nations, access management on forestry roads, and more.
So who is the Forest Practices Board? We are the independent watchdog for sound forest and range practices in BC and we work for you – the public. It’s our job to make sure forest companies are following the rules for forestry and that government is enforcing the rules. How do we do this? Well we audit forestry operations to check that they are in compliance with the Forest and Range Practices Act and the Wildfire Act, and we investigate complaints from the public. Those complaints come to us from people like you. And while we can’t stop activities or force anyone to change what they are doing, we do report what we find to the government and the public and we make recommendations for improvement – recommendations that are most often followed. In the case of a complaint, we work hard to help the affected parties resolve the concerns so we don’t have to carry out a full investigation and issue a report – that’s always the best outcome.
In recent years we have audited forestry activities carried out on a couple of hydro line projects north of Terrace, and forest licences near Houston, Smithers and on Haida Gwaii. Three years ago we audited the Terrace Community Forest and last year we audited a forest licence held by Canada Resurgence Developments out of Terrace. We have also investigated complaints about replanting of harvested sites in the Kotcho and helped to resolve some concerns about logging near Lakelse Lake.
We can also investigate and report on provincial forest policy and practice issues to assess how well the Forest and Range Practices Act is working and what needs to be improved. Our goal is to encourage continuous improvement and stewardship of our forests in BC.
Because we can audit and investigate the provincial government, we have to be independent from the Minister and the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations. We get our funding from government, but we have our own budget. Our reports are not reviewed by government before they are issued and government has no influence over who we audit or what we investigate. We act on behalf of the public of BC and not any single interest group or organization.
So why did we come to the Northwest in July? We want people to know about who we are and that we are here to serve you. What about the concerns we heard during our visit? Some of them are issues we have previously looked into or are currently examining. We have made recommendations to the BC government about dealing with access management concerns and we recently recommended a number of improvements to forest stewardship plans. We are currently looking into young stand harvesting to see how big of a problem it may be. These reports and recommendations are all available on our website.
Do you have a concern about forestry in this area? Then look us up – we will try to help you. Whether you are a forest worker, a hunter or trapper, a First Nation government or Band member, or a property owner or resident, we are here to help.
Article contributed by Darlene Oman and Sam Coggins from the BC Forest Practices Board.
You can call the Forest Practices Board toll-free at 1-800-994-5899 or by email at FPBoard@bcfpb.ca. Find out more about the board and view all of our reports and publications online at www.bcfpb.ca