Audits on six Fort St. James woodlots found a 50 per cent full compliance rate.
Three woodlots out of the six were compliant with the legal requirements for planning and forestry activities and three were found to have some level of noncompliance. One woodlot was found to be in more serious noncompliance, with the report on woodlot licence W0657stating: “The Board notes serious shortcomings in the licensee’s management of its reforestation obligations. In particular, the audit identified significant non-compliances regarding the requirements to prepare a pre-harvest map with specified information, ensure reforestation obligations were met within specified timelines; and submit annual reporting information,” said the report.
The report says the shortfalls would have a cumulative effect on the woodlot management and could result in important reforestation not being carried out at the necessary times for proper regrowth.
No planting or silviculture survey had been done in the audit period.
Two other woodlot licences: W0295 and W 1893 were also found to have some shortcomings in their audits, in the submission of their annual reports.
But Rob MacDougall who is a licensee for one and the manager of the other of these two woodlots said his reports have since been submitted.
“I was remiss and I’ll be the first to admit it,” he said.
While there have been some changes in how the reports are submitted in recent years, now being submitted electronically through very expensive software programs, MacDougall said he only knows of one local service provider through which he can submit his reports, and they are so busy it can be difficult to get the reports filed. He said the change from hard copy submissions to digital made a difference.
“I was slow to adjust,” he said.
With the significant increases in annual allowable cuts on the woodlots, MacDougall also said the increase in harvest may have led to the oversight in filing the reports, as getting the wood out does become the priority when production levels have to be so high, both to harvest the wood while it is usable and to get enough wood to make it worthwhile when the price is so low.
“That’s a resource owned by everyone in British Columbia, and I would be remiss if I didn’t do everything I could to get the wood off,” he said.
But he said he ensures the groundwork has been done, a statement supported by the audit report, which state the reporting is where the licensee was lacking, and the information in the reports helps to ensure reforestation obligations are being met.
Forestry officials said the majority of the non-compliance problems were in the reporting of work done, and while sometimes it is a bit delayed, the forest service does usually get the information.
They said generally, area woodlot licensees are very good and because it is area-based tenure which puts the emphasis on long-term management, the woodlots are managed effectively.
Changes in the woodlot regulations over the past few years put more of the responsibility on the shoulders of the licensees, but it has also made the process more streamlined.
These types of audits are done around the province, with about 12 taking place each year in randomly chosen forest districts which haven’t been audited in the past five years.
“We usually find a pretty good rate of compliance,” said Al Gorley, chair of the Forest Practices Board. “So it’s a bit unusual to have this many in non-compliance.”
The fieldwork for the audits took place in September of 2011.
Licensees are given a chance to remedy the issues in the reports and have to report back to the board by December 31, 2012.
For the full reports click here, the full reports can then be downloaded on the right