Forest Practices Board Report Highlights Importance of Public Involvement in Forest Planning
VICTORIA – Today, the Forest Practices Board reported that the Arrow Forest District complied with the Forest Practices Code when it refused to extend the public review period for several 1996-2000 forest development plans in the Slocan Valley. However, the Board also found that the refusal to extend the time allowed for public review was not reasonable.
The report concludes the Board’s investigation of a complaint by the Valhalla Wilderness Society and the Slocan Valley Watershed Alliance about the ministry’s decision not to grant an extension to the public review period for the plans.
“An adequate opportunity for the public to provide input to forest development plans is essential to good forest management,” said Board Chair, Keith Moore, “The Board’s view is that reasonable requests for additional time to review a forest development plan should be granted unless there are compelling reasons not to extend the review period. In this case, the Board found that the request by these organizations was reasonable and there were no compelling reasons to not grant the extension.”
The Board is making recommendations to government to ensure the public review process is implemented in a clear and consistent manner by forest districts across the province. This is the second complaint investigation report the Board has issued involving the public review process for forest development plans. A report was issued in April of this year regarding a complaint on northern Vancouver Island. Several other complaints about the public review process are currently under investigation by the Board.
“Public review of forest development plans is the most important, and the only legislated, opportunity the public has to review and comment on proposed roads and cutblocks,” said Moore, “The recommendations made in these two reports are intended to ensure that the public is given adequate opportunities to comment on forest development plans on public lands across the province.”
The two organizations had asked the district manager to extend the public review period for a number of forest development plans for approximately eight weeks. The district manager did not grant the request for extension, but agreed to accept comments for an extra 10 days. In early May 1996, both organizations complained to the Forest Practices Board about the district manager’s decision and his failure to provide reasons for the decision.
The Forest Practices Board is an independent agency established in 1995 that provides reports to the public and government about compliance with the Code and the achievement of its intent. Investigating public complaints under the Code is one of its key roles. Other important responsibilities include auditing forest practices and government enforcement of the Code, special investigations of Code related forestry issues; and participating in administrative reviews and appeals.