There is an urgent need to correct forest policy, said retired forester Anthony Britneff.
Britneff, along with renowned environmentalist Vicky Husband and Peter Ewert from Stand Up for the North based in Prince George were speakers at a public forum on forestry held in Williams Lake Monday.
“Forests have a huge potential in this province, we’re just not seeing it,” said Britneff, who after a 40-year career with the Ministry of Forests retired in 2010.
The government began creating a “perfect storm” of mismanagement of public forests in 2001, just as the pine beetle epidemic began to play out, Britneff told the audience of around 75 people.
He suggested the forest and range practices act gave control to the private sector and replaced law and regulation with the notion of professional reliance, and the downsizing, budget cuts, reorganization, and office and branch closures within the Ministry of Forests, all compounded the problem.
In 2002, while he headed the provincial silviculture program, Britneff saw a “soaring” amount of non-sufficiently restocked lands.
“The silviculture budget was cut by 90 per cent from $100 million to about $8 million and then restored now to $40 million,” he said.
Between 2001 and 2012, the total provincial budget increased by 56 per cent, while the combined budgets for renewable resource ministries such as parks, environment and forestry decreased by 52 per cent, he added.
Husband warned a stumpage rate of 25 cents a cubic metre is “throwing away our forests,” resulting in very little revenue for the people of B.C.
“There is little economic benefit at a great ecological expense,” she said.
Britneff suggested local forest trusts are the way to go, an idea being presented by Andrew Mitchell on his Green B.C. Communities blog.
There are no examples in B.C. or in Canada, but there are in Scandinavia.
The local forests are 100,000 or more hectares run by a local board that’s elected and community run.
They would be overseen by a provincial assembly to ensure the lands are managed sustainably, he continued.
“Then you’re talking about the responsibilities of stewardship, not right to harvest,” Britneff said.
Presently the province is conducting consultation meetings on whether some forest licenses should be rolled over to area based tenures, however, Britneff said government should be asking what is the best way to govern public forest resources to ensure sustainability for future generations instead.