Province building a more diverse, inclusive forest sector

IN line with government’s vision for forest care, the Province has introduced legislation to help build a more diverse and inclusive forest sector that works for people.

The Forest Amendment Act, 2021 will ensure local communities, First Nations and smaller companies have more opportunities in the forest sector, establish a fair framework for compensation regarding changes to harvesting rights, and enhance government’s ability to manage timber harvesting in the public interest.

“Our forests make B.C. one of the best places to live, but old forestry policies have limited opportunities for local communities, First Nations and smaller companies,” said Katrine Conroy, Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development. “By fixing the Forest Act, we’re building on our vision for forest care to better share all the benefits of our forests for generations to come.”

These legislative changes support government’s vision where workers and communities benefit from secure, innovative forestry jobs, Indigenous Peoples are full partners in sustainable forest management, and the oldest and most ancient trees are protected.

There is significant concentration of forest tenures in the province and almost all of the available forests are already under tenure. This makes it difficult to promote innovation and attract new entrants into the sector, including value-added operations and made-in-B.C. manufacturing.

Through new tools such as a special-purpose area, government will be able to reduce the timber harvesting rights of existing forest tenure holders, compensate them and then redistribute the timber harvesting rights to First Nations, communities and BC Timber Sales.

The amendments will address uncertainty with respect to compensation rules by developing a consistent and clear framework outlining what is compensable and how it is to be valued. This will apply in instances when a licensee’s timber-harvesting rights are reduced to support reconciliation or other objectives. The Province intends to double the amount of replaceable forest tenure held by First Nations.

Other changes will require tenure holders to provide current information on forest inventory to the chief forester. This will increase transparency of the sector and support decision-making in the public interest.

There will also be increased accountability for log exporters through a new auditing system to make sure they have paid their full fee-in-lieu of domestic manufacturing, ensuring British Columbians are receiving their fair share of resource revenue.

These amendments will support government’s new vision of how B.C. cares for its forests, as outlined in the Intentions Paper released in June, as well as the ongoing implementation of all 14 recommendations from the Old Growth Strategic Review.