Forest Act amendments introduced today will help improve forest stewardship and support community resiliency in mountain pine beetle impacted areas.
The legislation fulfils recommendations made by the Special Committee on Timber Supply in their August 2012 report, which was based on public hearings and written submissions from First Nations, local communities, industry stakeholders and the public.
The legislation proposes a new section 34.1 be added to the Forest Act that will create the ability to convert volume-based forest licences to area-based tree farm licences at the minister's invitation. Invitations will be publicly advertised, and applicants must make their application for an area-based licence available for public review and comment for at least 60 days and indicate how they have incorporated public feedback before submitting to the minister.
The minister may reject an application if the best interests of the public are not met. This summer, the ministry will consult with the public on the evaluation criteria and use the results to refine policy before the first application for a conversion to an area-based tenure occurs.
Supporting area-based tenures has a number of benefits, such as creating an incentive for licence holders to make enhanced silviculture and infrastructure investments that will improve the mid-term timber supply. As with other forms of forest licences on Crown land, public consultations on forest stewardship plans and timber supply reviews are required on any new area-based tenures.
Another important legislative amendment will create a supplemental forest licence, which ensures wood fibre can be obtained for bioenergy, pellet producers and secondary manufacturers by providing greater fibre security for licence holders.
The legislation will also create the ability to establish sustainable maximum harvest limits on the amount of low-grade timber credited to a non-sawlog facility. This will ensure access to low-quality timber but prevent overharvesting. A number of related and consequential amendments are also included in the legislation, such as creating regulation-making powers.
On Oct. 9, 2012, the Province announced the Mid-Term Timber Supply Action Plan, consisting of nine sustained and 11 new actions. To facilitate implementation of the action plan, the Province committed to introducing supporting legislation at the earliest possible opportunity.
Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations Minister Steve Thomson -
"The legislation introduced today is a milestone and meets key commitments in our Mid-Term Timber Supply Action Plan. We are creating the conditions needed to help B.C.'s Interior weather the impacts of the mountain pine beetle infestation."
Parliamentary Secretary for Forestry John Rustad -
"This government is fulfilling an important commitment to support the recommendations made by the Special Committee on Timber Supply. Innovations such as the supplemental forest licence will provide security to the wood bioenergy sector and help enable increased investment."
Jason Fisher, vice president, Dunkley Lumber -
"As a family-owned company, we plan our business in terms of generations. Operating on an area-based licence provides us with the security we need to bring that long-term approach to forest management so that we can continue to invest in B.C.'s most important public resource."
Mayor Luke Strimbold of Burns Lake -
"As a forestry-based community, Burns Lake shares a common vision with the province to increase mid-term timber supply for the future of our families. These amendments help create the foundation we need to accomplish this goal."
- Since 2001, British Columbia has committed $884 million to battle the beetle and mitigating future impacts.
- Forestry is a key driver of B.C.'s economy, providing direct employment to over 56,000 B.C. families, especially in rural communities.
- The Special Committee on Timber Supply consulted with 15 communities in the central interior, held three days of hearings in Vancouver, and reviewed over 650 submissions from First Nations, local governments, industry stakeholders and the public.
For more information on the Mid-Term Timber Supply Action Plan and the mountain pine beetle, visit: www.gov.bc.ca/pinebeetle
To view a copy of the bill, visit: http://www.leg.bc.ca/39th5th/1st_read/index.htm
A backgrounder follows.
Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations
Guiding principles - Implementation of volume-based to area-based tenures
Conversions of volume-based replaceable forest licences to area-based management will be guided by the following principles:
- The minister will only approve applications for conversions that will provide a clear, measurable benefit to the public. Examples could include:
- Return of allowable annual cut (AAC) to government to support priority programs such as First Nations woodland licences, community forests, woodlots and BC Timber Sales.
- Creation of new business models, which are not supported through volume-based tenures, which will provide long-term, incremental employment and revenue, for example, development of the bio-energy sector.
- Commitments for licensee-funded activities or investments that have a very high likelihood of increasing the AAC of the landbase and/or improving stewardship or other economic opportunities as compared to the status quo.
- Commitments to conduct a long-term forest management regime that is incremental to the minimum standards required by current legislation and policy.
- Furthering First Nations' involvement in the business of forestry over the long term.
- The area proposed for area-based management will support an AAC that is commensurate with the AAC being surrendered under forest licences and commensurate with the general timber supply forecast for the timber supply area as a whole. If the replaceable forest licence holder offers to return AAC to government as part of an application, the new area-based tenure landbase must reflect the reduced AAC.
- The AAC and management of the residual timber supply area will not be unduly impacted.
- The proposed area-based tenure must represent a fair and balanced exchange of rights and opportunity.
- Conversions will support, or not hinder, existing government forest tenure commitments and goals for example, issuance of First Nations woodland licences and expansion of the community forest and woodlot licence programs.
- Conversions will not unduly impact existing forest tenure holders or tenure holders within other resource sectors, for example, oil and gas, mining, and must not result in payment of compensation by government to any tenure holder or stakeholder.
- The protection of Aboriginal interests must be supported.
- Existing land-use plans must be supported.
- The application must be available for public review and comment for at least 60 days, and the applicant must submit the results of the public review process and show how public concerns have been addressed before submitting to the minister for decision.
Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations