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B.C. forest tenure legislation under fire

The B.C. government is being accused of giving forest companies new, sweeping powers over the land base through legislation it introduced last week to amend the Forest Act.


March 1, 2013
By The Vancouver Sun

“This appears to be essentially a giveaway to big companies,” Jessica Clogg, a lawyer with West Coast Environmental Law who specializes in forestry issues told The Vancouver Sun. She was referring to a tenure rollover plan given first reading last week that would give forest companies the ability to convert their volume-based forest tenures to area-based tenures called tree farm licences.

The forest industry is supportive of the changes, which it expects will encourage private investment on the land. But the changes will not erode existing environmental protections or other non-timber values, said Doug Routledge, vice-president of the Council of Forest Industries. He said it makes sense to manage diverse values, as well as timber, on an area-based model.

Routledge said it makes sense to introduce the legislation now, which is enabling legislation only, as it will enable whoever forms the next government to move forward with it.

Routledge said he expects the industry to move cautiously. First, he said, the process is controlled by the government. Tree farm licences will be considered at the minister’s invitation only. He said he does not expect a flood of applications when those invitations are extended.

“This is simply a different form of tenure that grants harvesting rights over a certain volume of timber. It is not a giveaway of timber. The timber has already been allocated in tenure. It is not a giveaway of land because the land remains vested in the Crown and the public interest. It is not different than a forest licence except that it is spacially explicit. The same rights and responsibilities apply.”

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