BC announces reforms to revitalize coastal forest sector
By Ellen Cools
At the annual Truck Loggers Association (TLA) convention today, B.C. Premier John Horgan announced several policy changes to revitalize the province’s coastal forest sector.
The changes are part of the Coast Forest Sector Revitalization Initiative, a government program that aims to “reverse a systemic decline that has taken place in the coast forest sector over most of the last two decades,” according to a news release.
“We’re committed to rebuilding a strong and healthy coastal forest sector for British Columbians,” said Premier Horgan in a statement. “Through the forest policy reforms I’m announcing today, we will see more logs and fibre processed in B.C., supporting B.C. workers, their families and communities.”
The initiative has five goals, which will be executed through legislative, regulatory and policy changes in the next two years:
- Rebuilding solid wood and secondary industries so more B.C. logs and fibre are processed in B.C.
- Increasing fibre availability for domestic mills by improving harvest performance
- Upholding a credible auction system by verifying independent timber sale licenses
- Creating stronger business relationships between BC Timber Sales, major licensees and First Nations
- Amending the Forest and Range Practices Acts and auditing the private managed forest land regime to reestablish public trust
These reforms come after six months of consultation with First Nations, industry and labour.
As part of the program, the fee for log exports will be based on harvest economics, beginning July 1, 2019.
The waste policy will also be reformed, with the goal of redirecting some of the two million cubic metres of wood waste to pulp and paper producers, as well as the bio-products and bioenergy sector. In the spring, a coastal fibre recovery zone will be established, along with penalties for leaving more waste than acceptable, based on new lower waste benchmarks in harvested areas. Penalties will also be increased for reporting waste late.
Meanwhile, BC Timber Sales will engage with First Nations and other licensees in area-based planning to create better landscape-level planning and forest management practices. BC Timber Sales will also work with these groups in business arrangements that would result in all parties sharing timber volume, expertise and/or capital, as well as decision-making and mutual benefits.
“The announcements made today by the Premier will fundamentally address growing concerns about forest management on the coast,” said David Elstone, TLA’s executive director, in a statement. “As timber-harvesting contractors, we recognize change is required and that the industry needs certainty. We are hopeful the announced initiatives will support industry sustainability, and the TLA remains available to continue working with the Premier to meet the government’s objectives while the contractors’ concerns are heard.”
The coastal forest sector generated more than 24,000 direct jobs and $3.1 billion in gross domestic product in 2017.