B.C. forest management leaders and concerned citizens contributing to the Healthy Forests-Healthy Communities: A conversation on B.C. forests (HFHC) have identified the importance and need for local influence on forest plans and practices affecting communities (http://bcforestconversation.com).
Clearly, communities want more say in how B.C. forests are managed to ensure sustainability of the resources and contributions to local economic development.
A frequent comment from communities over the years has been that they have little influence on forest planning and operations.
The view is the decisions are made in Victoria through legislation, regulation and policy and influenced by the major forest companies. Although some of this is true, communities can have an influence, if organized, persistent and focused.
A mechanism available to communities is third-party forest certification.
Most major forest companies subscribe to one of three certification systems used in B.C. (i.e., CSA, SFI, FSC).
Each requires companies to either demonstrate they are meeting the needs of local communities or have community involvement.
Companies use certification to show customers they are managing sustainably.
This is a lever communities should capitalize upon to influence forest management decisions.
If a community is to have influence on local forest decisions through forest certification, there has to be clarity regarding what is expected from the local forests and formally communicate this to forest managers and certification auditors.
This requires a vision for the local forest lands identifying the views and needs over the long-term and being the cornerstone in influencing forest lands decisions.
Communities need to demand companies and the auditors ensure forest practices will deliver on the vision.
co-ordinator, HFHC initiative