Category Archives: Archived

Time for BC to renew its land use leadership

Time for BC to renew its land use leadership
Bruce Sieffert,Time for B.C. to Renew Lan Use Leadership

Time for BC to renew its land use leadership

From 1990 to the mid 2000’s, British Columbia was a globally‐recognized leader in using community‐based land use planning to seek balanced and sustainable management of our rich endowment of natural resources.

Leadership emerged then because it was needed. Those old enough to remember might recall how the forestry and land use debate in B.C. became so intense in the 1980’s that it was dubbed the “war in the woods.”

To their credit governments of that era, along with community leaders, environmental advocates, and industry spokespersons, rose to the occasion. The community‐based land use planning processes that emerged provided a dramatic shift on B.C.’s public lands, with a doubling of the park and protected area system, coupled with a broad commitment to sustainable forest management. These processes were challenging at times – collaboration is seldom the shortest or easiest path – but they did provide the tools for substantial community influence on land use, ultimately providing a social licence for a new balance that included protection and sustainable development.

But now those hard‐won gains are at risk of being lost – with the possibility that a new “war in the woods” might take shape. Communities are once again feeling excluded from the management of the public lands around them. As noted by Harshaw, Pillman and Aird in an earlier background paper for the Healthy Forests Healthy Communities initiative, government has backed away from the community‐based planning processes that flourished in the 1990’s. Even modest support for community‐based plan implementation committees has dried up.

To avoid a return to a divisive land use debate in B.C. a renewed commitment to planning and community engagement is essential. It is important at the outset to explicitly recognize aboriginal rights and title, and the aspirations of both First Nation communities and non‐aboriginal communities.

The good work provided by previous planning will often provide a good starting place – but we should not be wedded to the specific approaches and products of the 90’s. Planning processes must be flexible to reflect the wide range of communities and First Nations. Some communities may have the interest and capacity to deal comprehensively with major regional challenges, while others may want to focus their energies on very specific local land use issues.

We can start now by empowering those First Nations and communities who are ready to move ahead. The province needs to play a sponsorship role, working with First Nations on a government‐to‐government basis, to describe a clear mandate to seek a renewed community‐based land use vision.

The province also needs to provide seed money. Any estimate of fiscal requirements is speculative at this time, given the need for communities to define their interests and tailor processes accordingly. A relatively small investment of $10 to 20 million over the next ten years would likely be sufficient to support well run and focused planning exercises in a number of communities. Moreover, the provincial government may not be the only funding source. The current collaborative marine planning initiative on the B.C. coast has brought together funding from a number of sources. The government does need to renew its own expertise in planning and community engagement, which has largely been eroded in a decade of downsizing.

In summary, it will take three things to move forward: a core investment by the provincial government, respect for and partnership with First Nations, and, more than anything, the time, energy, and creativity of British Columbians working together in well‐defined and well‐supported collaborative processes.

These are once again challenging times for communities and citizens, both First Nation and a non‐aboriginal.

This means that a working consensus can be difficult to reach. But as our past experience shows, British Columbians can come together in challenging times to define a new land use balance for our public lands. It is time for British Columbia to show it can lead once again.

Bruce Sieffert has over 30 years experience with the B.C. government in land use planning and policy, and is currently an adjunct professor with the Centre for Livehoods and Ecology at Royal Roads University


Forest Pest Management in BC

Forest Pest Management in BC
Dan Heppner, Healthy Forests-Healthy Communities

Forest Pest Management in BC

Forest management in BC currently lacks an overall vision, goals and objectives. I agree with the recommendations in the Healthy Forests – Healthy Communities report that there should be a change in focus from short‐term economics to long-term stewardship. A critical component of forest-management, landscape level planning, is also lacking. Planning in BC is primarily at the cut-block level and is carried out by the forest industry. There needs to be better government oversight and involvement in planning to ensure long-term stewardship. Planning at the landscape level is critical to forest pest management.

Forest management in BC currently lacks an overall vision, goals and objectives. I agree with the It should be acknowledged that we are experiencing an economic downturn of western civilization and there are unlikely to be the resources that we would like to see invested in forestry. The current situation may be the new reality; we may have to lower our expectations. Just the same, there is much that could be improved. Pest management is essential to the long-term stewardship of BC’s forests and the subsequent provision of goods and services to the public.

I believe the biggest pest management concerns in BC are associated with the effects of a changing climate and the accidental introduction of exotic insects and diseases from other countries. The affects of climate change are already impacting our forests severely (e.g. mountain pine beetle and Dothistroma needle blight) and serious exotic pests have already been introduced and established (e.g. white pine blister rust and balsam woolly adelgid). The biology of trees and pests are closely linked to each other and the environment. The anticipated changes in the climate will alter these biological relationships with pests likely being more positively affected than their long-lived, and increasingly stressed, tree hosts. Further climate change impacts are anticipated.

Forest pests are introduced from foreign countries annually. Improved climate conditions for pests will likely improve the probabilities that they will become established. Our formerly cold winters have limited the establishment of these accidentally introduced pests and have been our best natural defense. It is probable that some of these introduced pests will have serious impacts in the not too distant future.

If we are to mitigate pest impacts, forest health staffing and funding need to be maintained and augmented. Monitoring and research capabilities need to be improved. Current monitoring is probably adequate for medium to large scales. However, monitoring at finer scales for both native and exotic pests is essential as many pest management interventions are best applied at incipient stages. Research is needed to improve our understanding of pest/host relationships so that the affects of climate change can be anticipated. On‐going research leading to the development of novel control techniques is also necessary. I believe that current forest health capabilities in BC are insufficient to adequately deal with pest management issues now and into the future. Political parties need to be cognizant of this and act

Don Heppner, Retired forest entomologist with 30 years experience with the BC Ministry of Forests


Capitalizing on BC’s Strength in Value-Added Wood Products

Capitalizing on BC’s Strength in Value-Added Wood Products
Robert Kozak, Healthy Forests Healthy Communities

Capitalizing on BC’s Strength in Value-Added Wood Products

Robert Kozak

British Columbia has a long, storied tradition of generating wealth and creating opportunity through forest‐based activities. But now we stand at a precipice, caught in the eye of the perfect storm of a changing climate, increasingly fickle markets, and an unrelenting wave of globalization. The future of our forest‐dependent communities – which, for so long, were the economic backbone of this province – depends on our collective vision and ability to create a vibrant, resilient, and economically healthy forest sector.

Historically, our forest strategy has revolved around industry producing high volumes of low value commodity goods for export: dimension lumber, pulp and paper, and increasingly raw logs. This strategy has served us well. But the world is changing, and so too are our fortunes. The commodity game is fleeting, and we now find ourselves out of step in our ability to compete with low‐cost producers from further and further afield – even if we open up new markets. Concurrently, our system of stewardship on our publicly‐held lands has meant that we continue to enjoy an abundance of arguably some of the highest quality wood fibre in the world. New opportunities for forest products and services abound.

Now is as good a time as any to revisit our forest strategy, and perhaps a good place to start would be to pose a few simple questions related to the products that we manufacture. When are we going to create and market products that match the quality of our wood fibre? When are we going to capitalize on the growing markets for high‐end appearance wood products, like doors and windows, mouldings and millwork, cabinetry, furniture, flooring, prefabricated housing, and the like? In other words, when will we finally get traction on the term ‘value‐added’ by enabling the creation of a viable and economically significant industry?

The reasons for being unable to foster a value‐added sector that goes beyond merely fledgling are numerous and nuanced, but most are underpinned by the fact the forest sector is an entrenched industry operating within the confines of outmoded policies. The important point is that, unlike the commodity wood products sector, BC’s value‐added industry is incredibly well poised to compete in global markets and to do so sustainably. We have highly sought after wood species. We have a comparatively strong environmental track record of responsible forest stewardship. We have numerous competitive advantages in the forms of geographic proximity to robust markets, strong supply chain infrastructures, ample business support services, thoughtful market intelligence, state‐of‐art technologies, a strong design tradition, a skilled workforce, and most importantly, a yearning on the part of forest‐dependent communities to remain vital. In other words, we have the business savvy to make this work. But do we have the political will?

After decades of forest stakeholders and policy makers trotting out ‘value‐added’ wood products as a panacea to cure the woes of an ailing forest sector and the decline of our forest‐dependent communities, it is too easy to dismiss this strategy as rhetoric; a mere flight of fancy. There is a pressing need right now for all of us in BC – community members, Aboriginal peoples, industry, government, unions, NGOs, academics, and any other interested parties – to have an open and frank dialogue on how to move the value‐added agenda forward in a meaningful way. Can we create forest policy that assures the small and medium enterprises that comprise this sector access to the high quality wood fibre they desperately need? Can we catalyze business development by creating a healthy investment climate and an enabling environment for small and medium enterprises to flourish? Can we begin to capitalize on our business strengths and create a culture of innovation and design, as opposed to replication and commodification? To say no to these questions is defeatist; an admission that we simply do not have the wherewithal to be world leaders in the business of forestry and acceptance that BC is destined to win the race to the bottom.

BC’s Forest Inventory: Why it matters and what needs to be done about it

BC’s Forest Inventory: Why it matters and what needs to be done about it
Ian Moss

BC’s Forest Inventory: Why it matters and what needs to be done about it.

Forest inventories are an investment to support current and future forest resources opportunities. It is the primary source of information for determining acceptable annual harvest levels while at the same time maintaining healthy forests and healthy communities. This includes maintenance of biodiversity and protection of species habitats; provision of continuous and sufficient supplies of clean water; support for recreation, tourism, hunting, fishing, and guiding.

In 2003 the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy cited the failure to account for the costs and benefits of ecosystem services as a key barrier to conservation. Also, in 2007 the Conference Board of Canada recognized the gross domestic product (GDP) should include estimates of impacts on the supply of scarce natural resources. Forest inventories are central to achieving these goals.

In 2012 the Auditor General pointedly stated the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations has the primary responsibility to set clear direction and ensure activities conducted on forest lands are achieving the aims of the legislation. He also concluded, “the ministry does not appropriately monitor and report its timber results against timber objectives” or “ensure its information systems reflect actual forest conditions in priority management areas,” or “ensure its investments in silviculture are sufficient to achieve long term objectives, and that they align with stewardship principles and are cost effective”.

To meet all these demands and manage forests effectively requires the forest inventory reflect, as realistically as possible, what is actually found on the ground, where, and when, and with a reasonable and meaningful level of detail. The current inventory is deemed by the Government itself to be sufficient for “strategic” but not “tactical” or “operational” planning purposes. It is not sufficiently accurate on a local scale to direct ground level activities; nor is it sufficiently detailed to underwrite sound silviculture investments. This also suggests the strategies themselves are predicated on a certain degree of misinformation and as such may not be a reliable guide into the future. Simply stating it is good enough for underwriting the Chief Forester’s determination of an acceptable rate of Annual Allowable Cut (AAC) does not make it so. The level of uncertainty surrounding the adequacy of current forest inventories should be enough to prompt the question as to whether it is possible to do better.

The BC Government recently announced a commitment of $8million/year for forest inventories. This is inconsistent with the 2011 Status of BC Forest Inventory report produced on behalf of the Association of BC Forest Professionals which identified a requirement of $15million/year to maintain an adequate forest inventory.

Increased investment in forest inventory would bring greater certainty to investments in silviculture, in development of new production capacity (products and facilities), and in the provision of ecosystem goods and services. Reliable inventories would assist in reconciling what was done by design or has happened by chance in the forest with what are perceived consequences within the broader context of the inventory. If the objective is to sustain the supply of goods and services over the long‐term, the opportunity to produce a more detailed, accurate, and higher resolution inventory deserves consideration as a worthwhile investment, particularly so in the face of climate change. Climate change poses potential risks, for example due to drought, and also potential benefits, for example increased growth due to more favorable growing season temperature and rainfall regimes. Both of these need to be recognized to better forecast the range of probable outcomes into the future.   An improved inventory allows for tactical plans to be aligned with strategic level outcomes, and strategic level plans to be aligned with operational reality. Accepting a second best inventory is to lose comparative advantage in global markets. Such an advantage is built on the natural resources we have, and the expertise and knowledge we develop and continue to grow for the purpose of managing those resources for maximum benefit of society.

We should not be content with an inventory that is seemingly acceptable on a strategic scale but not a tactical scale. We need to increase our investment in inventory and re‐orient it toward new technologies, particularly those that have already proven themselves such as LiDAR. At the same time, there continues to be a need for a professional workforce engaged with “boots on the ground.” This means people who establish and routinely re‐measure a Provincial network of ground plots. Finally we should be fully committed to building and maintaining expertise involving the use of this information to undertake enhanced forest management and planning and to monitor and report the outcomes at the scale of individual operating units. We are not currently doing this to the best of our abilities. A

$15million/year investment in forest inventory will allow us to be a leader in forest resource management and attract increased investment in the maintenance and use of forest resources.

The need for a BC forest vision

The need for a BC forest vision
Bill Bourgeios


Many citizens who follow forestry in BC are concerned the current management of our forests will not deliver the societal expectations over the long‐term. However, no formal statement such as a BC forests vision and goals or a transparent and trusted monitoring and assessment system exist to provide a measure as to whether forest management practices support their view.

The public expects Government will manage the BC Crown forest lands in the public interest over the long term and not diminish them into the future. Collectively, these can be summarized in the overall objective of achieving healthy and resilient communities which depend on conservation and use of healthy forests.