Will BC Forests Deliver Community Needs?

Our initiative’s Coordinator, Bill Bourgeois, publishes an new piece titled “Will BCs Forests Deliver – A Forester’s Challenge.” The article is being distributed to all CIF members of the Vancouver Section.

Will BC Forests Deliver Community Needs?

Bill Bourgeois, PhD, RPF
Healthy Forests-Healthy Communities: A conversation on BC forests
August 22, 2011

A wide range of knowledgeable forest leaders are raising the question of whether British Columbia (BC)
forests are on a course that will significantly impact the future of communities and families. As forest
professionals, it is critical we individually or collectively bring forward our views to decision-makers,
communities and concerned citizens. Traditionally foresters, I being one of them, tend to not speak out
for various reasons. However, the time has come to capitalize on the positive reputation of the
profession within the public.

There have been a number of newspaper articles and contributions to the “Healthy Forests- Healthy
Communities: A conversation on BC forests” (http://bcforestconversation.com) initiative that have raised
questions regarding the current state of the forest and its future. Many of these include references but
also opinions. I thought it might be useful to bring some of the issues and concerns together where
specific reference materials are available to support the concerns. I would encourage you to review the
following and let decision-makers and concerned citizens know your views, supportive or not, of
whether the current BC forests trajectory will deliver the expected short and long-term community
needs from our forests.

Forest management issues; concerns

  • Leadership: No long-term forest lands vision exists to guide policy and management decisions
    in BC; the Government’s “The State of the Forest Report” did not include a vision to evaluate the
    success of existing forest management.
  • Re-stocking: Regeneration levels (40-70%) in Mountain Pine Beetle (MPB) impacted areas; this
    level of regeneration is expected to significantly compromise future productivity if not
    corrected, especially with increasing global external influences.
  • Monitoring: Staff reductions (25% in 10 years) in BC Forest Service, much in the area of
    monitoring; current levels of oversight are expected to challenge the ability to both adequately
    determine the state of BC forests and ensure sustainable management; no evidence exists that
    other efficiencies or delegation have compensated for the staff reductions.
  • Resource inventories: Funding levels of resource inventories (45% of the estimated essential
    staffing levels for inventories maintenance; 75% of the inventories are 25 years old); lack of
    updated and readily available resource inventories is expected to limit managers’ ability to
    evaluate and manage forest conditions appropriately.
  • Research: Unprecedented low funding levels for forest lands research (80% over the last 3
    years); reduction of research expenditures is expected to affect the ability of researchers to fill
    knowledge gaps and respond to impacts of global external influences.
  • Management: Short-term management policies to assist industry while maintaining forest
    stewardship (e.g., management plans deferred for up to 10 years beyond earlier agreements;
    Government operational decisions focused on reducing industry costs; relaxation of small scale
    regeneration in MPB salvage areas); decisions to focus on short-term competition gains are
    expected to negatively impact the future forest productivity and the forest asset base.
  • Policies: Transfer of Community (Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal) interface hazard reduction
    planning and implementation responsibility from Government to communities; increased large-scale
    fire risk exists due to required levels of implementation and funding with all the risk
    residing with communities and not the Provincial Government.
  • Industry: Industry focus on marketing at the expense of forest management; failure of the
    forest industry to request Government assistance with long-term forest management costs,
    compared with recent requests for product marketing assistance, suggests forest management
    is not a priority.

Realizing increased value issues; concerns

  • Planning: Activity level of public involvement in strategic land and resource planning; public
    involvement limited to providing input into Government plans with limited or no oversight by
    pubic advisory committees to harness past world-class land use planning and threaten global
    land use planning leadership.
  • Forest use: Coordination and timber impact limits associated with non-traditional forest
    resources management; reduced lack of policy coordination and the continued legislated limit
    regarding impacts of recreation, road access, fish and wildlife, parks and reserves, cattle
    management and non-timber forest products suggest the focus is on timber management at the
    expense of other resources.
  • Product development: Marketing of “value-added products” (10-25% of total Government
    marketing allocation); low levels of market development funding is expected to limit the growth
    of the secondary manufacturing industry and hence community diversification and full
    utilization of the fibre resource.
  • Community development: Funding levels ($1 M/year for each Beetle Action Coalition for three
    years) for community diversification in MPB impacted areas; current funding allocations for
    community diversification in each of the three BC regions is expected to limit diversification and
    be far short of the projected funding needed to establish viable and sustainable communities.
  • Community diversification: Policy barriers to the encouragement of wood utilization for bioenergy;
    existing barriers limit opportunities for broader diversification and full utilization of the
    forest resource.

Forest environment protection issues; concerns

  • Biodiversity: Biodiversity protection initiatives; BC biodiversity “…is vulnerable to rapid
    deterioration, especially in light of climate change,” thereby requiring action to prevent loss of
    species and ecosystems.
  • Adaptation: Response to global environmental influences; with a focus primarily on research
    and not operations adaptation is expected to limit future opportunities.
  • Productivity: Cumulative impacts; without concerted coordination of broader resource
    management interests (especially in the Northeast) involving oil and gas exploration, forestry,
    mining, hydro development and agriculture, resource management and extraction activities are
    expected to create significant cumulative impacts to ecosystems and forest productivity.
  • Restoration: Habitat restoration in areas impacted by the MPB epidemic; current level of
    habitat restoration is expected to significantly reduce ecosystem productivity.
  • Watersheds: Impacts of MPB harvesting on streamflows; ecosystem and forest productivity is
    expected to be impacted by rising water tables due to tree harvesting and salvaging in MPB
    harvested watersheds.
  • Public involvement: Level of meaningful community participation; local communities and family
    desires regarding forest lands management influence is expected to be limited unless policies
    are changed.

I encourage you, as forest professionals, to let your views be known through direct conversations with
decision-makers, communities or concerned citizens or through the Healthy Forests-Healthy
Communities initiative website, facebook or twitter.

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