Whether or not volume-based licenses should be converted into expanded area-based tree farm licenses is the question government is posing to the residents of B.C.
Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations Steve Thomson has invited input until May 30.
“This public consultation process has come about because of the recommendations from the Special Mid-Term Timber Supply Committee,” Thomson told reporters during a media conference in Victoria Tuesday.
The committee recommended “increasing the diversity of area-based tenures using the established criteria for conversion” and a “walk before you run approach,” Thomson said, adding the government will look at regions of the province individually and will only move ahead if there is a strong case to do so.
When asked how area-based tenures would impact independent loggers, Thomson told the Tribune/Advisor the government is not expecting any changes.
“Again, impact on other tenure holders and other operators are all things that will need to be considered through the application and evaluation process,” Thomson said.
Former provincial chief forester Jim Snetsinger is leading the consultation and will visit several communities, including Williams Lake, to meet with stakeholders.
He will be asking what benefits the public thinks should be sought from forest licensees wanting to convert to area-based tree farm licenses and what criteria should be used to evaluate applications.
Former Cariboo North MLA Bob Simpson criticized the consultation process suggesting it is an attempt to justify what the government attempted to do before the 2013 election, which is to rollover the replaceable forest licenses of the few remaining major forest companies to tree farm licenses.
“The people of B.C. rejected this attempt at rollover in 2013 and, as a result, the government promised more open consultation on the relative merits of area-based tenures and the range of mechanisms to move away from volume-based harvesting to area-based management,” Simpson told the Tribune/Advisor.
Simpson suggested the government’s proposal will result in more corporate concentration and control of B.C.’s public forests at the expense of smaller industry players, the contracting community, and communities, and new entrants to the forest sector. People must pay very close attention to this attempt to increase corporate control and participate as fully as they will be allowed in order to have their voices heard, he continued.
“The timeframe and form of the so-called consultation process is extremely limited given the seriousness of the proposed policy changes and the long term implications of creating more TFLs.”
Yet Simpson is not opposed to more area-based management of B.C.’s public forests.
“In fact, given the most recent reports from the Forest Practices Board we need to quickly move away from the current volume-based approach to accessing timber,” he said. “TFLs are only one means to achieve area-based management and one that favours corporate control over community or First Nations’ control of our public forests.”