Court confirms board’s jurisdiction
VICTORIA – The B.C. Court of Appeal has ruled that the Forest Practices Board can comment on practices that comply with the Forest Practices Code but do not meet the intent of the code.
“This decision confirms our ability to report on forest practices that comply with the law, but may not be good for the environment,” said board vice-chair John Cuthbert. “It supports the board’s mandate as a public watchdog that can fully report on the practices it finds in the field. This type of reporting allows the board to clarify its compliance findings and make recommendations to improve forest practices in the future.”
The court’s ruling, handed down today, responds to an appeal launched by Northwood Pulp and Timber Ltd. (now Canfor Corporation) in November 1999 after the B.C. Supreme Court confirmed the board’s right to report its audit findings. Today’s decision reinforces that court’s recognition of the key role of the board in improving the code and making it more effective.
Canfor wanted a board audit report changed to remove references to forest practices that were in compliance with the code. Canfor argued that the board was outside its jurisdiction in criticizing those practices. The board argued that it must be able to comment about forest practices that comply with the code but are not considered sound – and make recommendations for change.
At issue in the board audit was excessive compaction and disturbance of soil on 10 logging sites. While the soil disturbance was within legal limits, the board was concerned that it damaged productivity of the site and could impair new growth. In addition to mentioning this practice in its report, the board has recommended that government change the code to prevent this situation from being repeated.
Since the audit, Canfor has responded positively to the board’s recommendations and will be monitoring and evaluating effects on soil productivity on its logging sites. Government has also agreed to provide guidance on soil disturbance for Ministry of Forests district managers to prevent similar problems.
The board conducts random audits of forest company and Forests Ministry compliance with the code. The board’s audit reports often include comments on problems as well as practices that exceed basic code requirements. The board reports its findings to the public and makes recommendations that are based on detailed examinations of practices in the field. Problems are reported even if the auditee is meeting basic code requirements.
The court decision is available at http://www.courts.gov.bc.ca/jdb-txt/ca/01/01/2001BCCA0141.htm on the Internet.
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.
Forest Practices Board
Phone: (250) 387-7964
February 28, 2001