Healthy Forests-Healthy Communities draft action plan released

Healthy Forests-Healthy Communities has released a draft of its strategic action plan.

Healthy Forests-Healthy Communities has released a draft of its strategic action plan.

Bill Bourgeois of New Direction Resource Management Ltd. says the plan is on the website and he’s soliciting feedback.

He highlights a few key messages in the report.

“We have to shift from a focus on short-term economics and move to long term stewardship. The second thing is, communities need to be more involved in the decisions, because right now they’re not very involved. We have to find ways to do that.”

The province also needs a Sustainable Forest Management infrastructure, he says.

“That’s really about vision, goals, targets, operating principles, those kinds of things. Decisions, whether they be operating or legislation, would be measured against that SFI. We don’t have that right now.”

Instead forest management depends on political will at the time, flipping from one crisis item to the next, without any real rationale, he says.

“We need to work at how do we help communities diversify their economies. How do we make forests connected to diversification opportunities? That really means putting more money into implementing the Beetle Action Coalition (BAC) strategies because it’s totally inadequate. Whether you agree with those strategies or not, communities have to go through and pick out priorities, in conjunction with the province, and decide where the money should go.”

Bourgeois says what’s happened in mountain pine beetle impacted areas is what’s happened in other areas, whether it’s the cod fishery or the beetle in the mid west U.S., or ice storms, the governments of the time did exactly what the government in B.C. did.

“We put money into analyzing the impacts, money into resources to mitigate those impacts, then when it came to putting money into adaptation, the politicians were off on another crisis and they dropped it.”

At least during the mitigation period, they put money into the BACs to create strategies, a move he says was a plus.

“But then they only gave them $3 million each over a three-year period. They can’t do anything with that amount.”

In the report, he recommends the provincial government go back to the federal government.

“They federal government reneged on their commitment of funding for the mountain pine beetle. They stopped funding it once the minister at the time said the beetle is over. From then on there was no more money from the feds going into the province. It went into Alberta because the beetle had gone over the hill.”

The province should offer 50/50 funding of $20 million a year for five years each directed toward communities and their diversification, he says.

Community forests have a big role to play as well, he adds.

“The government has to change the way they allocate volume to community forests and how they are managed. They are a major contributor to diversified products.”

Bourgeois has sent the draft report to all major political parties and to Independent MLA Bob Simpson; however, he hasn’t had much feedback yet.

“Hopefully they will consider the recommendations and put together what they want to say and commit to the next election,” he says.

In the fall, HFHC will host some workshops. There will be some expert workshops, followed up by community workshops, with one taking place in Williams Lake most likely in November.

“The idea is to get all the information at the expert workshops on the topics and put together a report and then the communities will look at the report and decide which topics that they want to discuss,” Bourgeois says.

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