NDP forests critic MLA Norm Macdonald says the NDP is confident its detailed forestry plan will ensure the province’s forests are healthy and make B.C. the jurisdiction where forestry is done at its best.
Macdonald spoke with the Tribune in Williams Lake Friday, sharing his party’s ideas for the province’s forests.
“We’ve worked on dollar figures with a number of people, but the actual detailed elements of the plan will be laid out after we see the budget in February,” Macdonald said. “There’s a tremendous skepticism that what the government presents about the budget is going to be accurate.
He was a member of the special committee on timber supply and said the plan addresses concerns identified when the committee visited B.C. communities.
Government has a responsibility to reforest areas that have been disturbed by wildfires and disease, he said.
“There used to be a legal obligation to replant those areas. The BC Liberals removed that legal obligation back in 2002 and cut the budget for replanting by 90 per cent.”
Since that time the Forest Practices board has estimated that a “massive” area between one and two million hectares was not replanted.
“It’s a missed opportunity.”
Critical of the Liberals’ replanting program Forests for Tomorrow started in 2005, Macdonald said 22 million seedlings should have been planted by now, but the number is closer to 13 to 14 million.
The NDP’s commitment will increase planting to the 50 million mark within four to five years, and update resource inventories so that decisions are being made on data that is no more than 10 years old.
Resource inventories, with 75 per cent of them being 30 years or older, need to be updated, Macdonald suggested.
“Especially with the amount of disruption we’ve had in this area, we know that decisions will be based on information that is inaccurate. How can you make informed decisions and cut a whole host of areas if you don’t know? We’re confident we can update inventories within two to three years.”
Non-timber values will also be included in the inventories.
A third goal would be to re-establish research capacity in the Ministry of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations, and re-establish land use planning because licensees depend on that community participation for certification and selling product.
Similar to inventories, land use plans have to be more of a “living document,” he said.
The fifth concern would be insects and disease to make sure they are identifying outbreaks and treating them as quickly as possible, and the final issue around forest and range evaluation, looking at the existing legislative framework to see if it addresses the work that needs to be done around restoration and landscape management.
“These are things people talked about repeatedly, not only in Williams Lake, but in all the communities we went to with the special committee, and things we’ve talked about as an opposition again and again,” Macdonald said. “Management of forests has to be changed for the better in a practical pragmatic way, step by step.”
He said implementing the plan won’t require large numbers of staff to run the programs.
Everyone “knows” the province is in a fiscal state where government has to be conscious that sources of revenue are limited.
“Adrian Dix is committed to costing out any new expenditures we have, which means we’ve identified a few sources of income, such as a move on the corporate tax from 10 to 12 per cent, we’ve talked about reinstating the bank capital tax.”
Macdonald said he and other members are meeting with stakeholders throughout the province to obtain feedback that will help the NDP develop its final platform before the May 2013 election.