Board Releases Review of BC’s Forest Planning

Victoria -Fundamental changes to the way forest development is planned in B.C. are recommended in a report released today by the Forest Practices Board. The report concludes the board’s provincewide review of the forest development planning process. Forest development plans are prepared by individual forest companies and the Ministry of Forests’ Small Business Forest Enterprise Program.

The board is recommending that government develop plans to manage a full range of forest resources at the “landscape” or “watershed” level, rather than at the cutblock level.

“These plans would provide strategies and measures for protecting all forest resources in the area of the plan,” said board Chair Bill Cafferata. “The public would have to be consulted in development of the landscape unit plans, and would have the opportunity to comment on the objectives for the full range of forest resources including timber, water, fish, wildlife, and recreation.”

“Once these landscape unit plans are in place, foresters will not have to ‘reinvent the wheel’ every time they prepare a forest development plan. They can focus on proposing roads and cutblocks that meet the strategies and measures already agreed to in the landscape unit plan,” said Cafferata.

The board expects its recommended approach would save time and money in the forest development planning process, which consumes huge amounts of industry and government resources.

Forest development plans must be prepared and submitted for approval on an annual basis for all forest licences in the province. This amounts to hundreds of plans prepared every year. Landscape unit plans would incorporate a lot of the resource management information now found in forest development plans, but would only have to be revised every five years or so.

The report cites several other important findings:

  • Where strategic land use plans exist, such as land and resource management plans (LRMPs), most forest companies incorporate those plans’ resource management objectives in their forest development plans. They do this whether the objectives are higher level plans under the code, or not.
  • Many people are concerned that current forest development plans do not adequately manage and conserve forest resources.
  • Many people feel their comments on proposed forest plans are not taken seriously and that the Ministry of Forests and forest companies do not change their plans as a result of public comment.
  • The single most important factor in making the process work is people. The commitment and attitude of the plan preparer, government agency staff and the local community have a direct effect on the level of satisfaction with the process.
  • Despite the concerns raised in the report, the board also found areas where the development planning process works well and satisfaction with the process is high.

The main factors cited in these cases were positive and respectful relationships among government and industry staff and members of the public.

Accordingly, the board is recommending that government promote a working environment that encourages and recognizes the benefits of co-operation and respect among those involved in the forest development planning process.

The findings are based on a review of 18 forest development plans, randomly selected from across the province, and interviews with over 360 individuals involved in the process.

Government employees, industry employees, First Nations, environmental groups, outdoor recreation enthusiasts, trappers, tourist operators, ranchers and members of the general public were interviewed in all regions of the province.

The Forest Practices Board is an independent public watchdog, established in 1995, that publishes reports about compliance with the Forest Practices Code and the achievement of its intent.

The board’s main roles under the Forest Practices Code are:

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

John Cuthbert,
Forest Practices Board
Phone: (250) 387-7964

Nicky Cain,
Forest Practices Board
Phone: (250) 387-7964

September 6, 2000