The fact that woodlot owners now have the option to remove private land from a woodlot is significant says BC Woodlot Association general manager Brian McNaughton.
Responding to the announcement made March 10 by Steve Thomson, minister of forests, lands and natural resource operations, McNaughton, also a woodlot owner in the Cariboo, says he’s happy because the change addresses the federation’s main concern.
“We have an aging demographic of woodlot licensee owners that need to plan their estates and plan for the inevitable,” says McNaughton, adding the ability to keep private land in or move it out allows them to better estate plan for their families.
A woodlot license in British Columbia is a parcel of Crown forest land which may be joined with a parcel of private forest land.
“This allows for the licence holder to remove some or all of their private land while still maintaining the remainder or whatever private land is left in the licence and continue to manage it,” he explains.
On average, the private land comprises about 20 per cent of the woodlots in the province, McNaughton notes.
From a forestry side, the fact woodlot owners don’t have to change licences, the Crown land stays in the woodlot licence, and continues to be managed sustainably is a really good thing, he says.
The BC Woodlot Association began advocating for the policy change about three years ago.
There are 52 woodlot owners in the Williams Lake, Horsefly, Likely areas, 63 in the Quesnel area, and another 33 in the 100 Mile House region.
Locally most of the licences will have been longer-term licences, says McNoughton.
He says that is significant because under the new policy, that private land must be part of a woodlot license for at least 10 years.
“There’ll be a few that have been transferred. It may have been somebody that had it for 15 years and they transferred in the last four or five years, so that person wouldn’t be eligible.
“There’s been a few new awards up in Quesnel that also wouldn’t be eligible.
“So there are a few circumstances, but generally speaking most of those numbers have held their licences for more than 10 years.”
Provincially the numbers are 866 woodlots covering about 592,000 hectares, managed by individuals, families, small groups or First Nations, says the Ministry of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resources.
All private land removals will be at the discretion of the minister of forests, lands and natural resource operations following public consultation.
In addition to the 10-year minimum licence requirement, owners will have to provide notifications and advertise their intent.
Their licence must be in good standing, access to Crown land via existing roads on the private land has been adequately addressed, and any private land that is removed will not be eligible for new woodlot licence opportunities.
“Woodlot holders are not major licensees. They are small-scale operators, who have asked for the flexibility to be able to manage some of their private land independently of the Crown land portions, which with this amendment the government is pleased to provide,” Thomson said in a press release.