Audit in Northwest BC Finds Mixed Results

VICTORIA –The results of an audit of the forestry activities of six licensees, five woodlot tenure operators and the Kispiox Forest District’s small business forest enterprise program and district-manager obligations were released today.

The board report commends Bell Pole Company, Kispiox Forest Products Ltd., Kitwanga Lumber Co. Ltd. and the Ministry of Forests small business forest enterprise program for their good forest practices.

However the audit found some poor forest practices in the area, despite harvest levels being about one-quarter of what was allowed. The Forest Practices Code was not followed by C GED Forest Products Ltd. for road construction, road maintenance and silviculture activities, nor by Canema Timber Ltd. and Skeena Cellulose Inc. (now New Skeena Forest Products Inc.) for road maintenance activities. Both Canema Timber Ltd. and New Skeena Forest Products Inc. have action plans in place to address the concerns found in the audit.

The audit also examined the appropriateness of government’s enforcement of the Forest Practices Code. While the board found generally good enforcement by the Ministry of Forests, there were two areas of weakness: the forest district did not conclude investigations into allegations of poor forest practices quickly enough, and when it did, senior officials took too long in making determinations on that evidence. In one case, it took more than two years for a road construction investigation to be presented to a senior official for a determination.

The slow pace of district investigations into allegations of Forest Practices Code contraventions was followed by the bankruptcy of Skeena Cellulose Inc., and government negotiations that absolved the company of any remediation obligations.

“Skeena Cellulose went bankrupt and all obligations—other than reforestation—were extinguished as part of the negotiations to sell the company,” said board member Fred Lowenberger. “That means the public could be left to bear environmental and economic costs of the bankrupt company’s past practices.

The audit also found that the Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection was not actively involved in code enforcement in the audit area. The board has come to this conclusion in each of its five area-based audits, and remains concerned that the ministry is not fulfilling its stated and legislated intent to be involved in enforcing the province’s forest practices laws.

The board is recommending that C GED, Skeena and Canema inspect and maintain roads under their responsibility, that the Skeena Stikine Forest District establish timelines for completing investigations, and that the Minister of Forests set policy on legal obligations when forest licensees go bankrupt so it’s clear who bears the environmental and financial costs of abandoned forestry obligations.

The audit area covers about 42 percent of the Kispiox Forest District, including portions of the Kispiox and Cranberry River drainages and most of the Skeena River drainage south of Hazelton. The entire Cranberry timber supply area and a portion of the Kispiox timber supply area fall within the audit area. All forestry activities carried out between July 1, 2001, and July 25, 2002, in the audit area were assessed for compliance with the Forest Practices Code.

The audit area was selected randomly and not on the basis of location or level of performance. The audit examined operational planning, harvesting; construction, maintenance and deactivation of roads; silviculture; fire preparedness activities; consistency with requirements of the Kispiox Land and Resource Management Plan; and government enforcement of the code.

The Forest Practices Board is an independent public watchdog established in 1995 that publishes reports about compliance with forest-practices legislation and the achievement of its intent. The board’s main roles are:

  • Auditing forest practices of government and licence holders on public lands.
  • Auditing government enforcement of the code.
  • Investigating public complaints.
  • Undertaking special investigations of code-related forestry issues.
  • Participating in administrative reviews and appeals.
  • Providing reports on board activities, findings and recommendations.

Jacqueline Waldorf

Forest Practices Board
Phone: 250 356-1586 / 1 800 994-5899