Bad data, bad decision

There’s an adage in business that you can’t manage what you don’t measure.

There’s an adage in business that you can’t manage what you don’t measure. Put another way, if you don’t have good data about something, then you won’t be able to successfully manage that particular aspect of your business.

The single largest public asset in British Columbia is our forests; the estimated economic value of those forests is approximately one quarter of a trillion dollars. Despite the importance of our forests, it’s become increasingly clear that the provincial government’s data about our public forests is no longer accurate or trusted.

For some time now, the Association of BC Forest Professionals has been calling on the government to increase investment in forest inventory while pointing out weaknesses in the current inventory system.

A November 2011 report from the Forest Practices Board concluded that they “do not have confidence that the forest ministry can adequately describe the current condition of the managed forest or track changes in its condition into the future.” This lack of confidence was echoed in a community consultation process conducted by the BC Government Employee’s Union, which concluded that “a central issue for … participants was the lack of up-to-date forest inventory information.”

Those same participants believed government was “irresponsibly risking one of our most valuable resources,” because good forest management decisions could not be made without accurate, up-to-date information about the state of our forests. An auditor general’s report released in February brought all of these concerns together in one scathing indictment of the government’s lack of knowledge about, and vision for, B.C.’s public forests. Unfortunately, the minister responsible chose to dismiss the auditor general’s assessment.

I brought all of these concerns to the minister responsible during budget estimates debates this past week. The minister said he was confident he had the information he needed to manage our public forests. Unfortunately, it seems few others share his confidence.

Bob Simpson is the Independent MLA for Cariboo North.

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