Forestry Watchdog Says Practices Improving —But Wildlife and Biodiversity Protection Still Missing from Code

Victoria – Forest practices in BC have improved significantly and the environmental impacts associated with logging and road construction have been reduced. That is one of the main conclusions of the 1998 Annual Report of the Forest Practices Board, tabled yesterday in the BC Legislature. “There is some good news here. Forest companies, government and the public should be pleased with these results of the Forest Practices Code,” said Board Chair Keith Moore.

The Board also observed some significant non-compliance with some important Code requirements, mainly for protecting small streams and for logging road construction. And there are some key provisions relating to the protection of wildlife and biodiversity that have not been implemented.

“We believe government needs to keep the positive results of the Code in mind as it considers further changes to reduce costs and make the Code more efficient, and it needs to implement the measures to protect wildlife and biodiversity,” said Moore.

We recognize the need for cutting costs in the forest sector and improving Code efficiency, but BC can’t afford to cut standards while reducing logging costs. It’s not only the environmental risks that matter. If BC can’t demonstrate that it is producing forest products sustainably, people won’t be buying what we have to sell. More than ever, BC needs an effective Code to be able to demonstrate that we are practising sustainable forest management and that the forest environment is being protected.”

“Some of the unanticipated increase in logging costs attributed to the Code actually resulted from constant changes to the Code. Just as government and industry people get some experience and comfort with what the Code requires, more changes are made,” said Moore. “What we really need is a period of stability – a stable Act, regulations and policy framework, stable funding and staff complements for the ministries that implement the Code – and a stable working environment with ongoing training and clear policy direction so that people can implement the Code efficiently and effectively.” Moore added.

The Board agrees with government that a more results-based Code is a desirable objective, but cautions that better forest development plans are needed before moving any further in that direction. “Better plans don’t mean bigger plans,” said Moore. “The main thing is to clearly identify the resource values in the area and define the management objectives. We need to complete land-use plans to do that.”

The growing interest in forest certification shows that the future of BC’s most important industry may depend on being able to demonstrate responsible forest management,” said Moore. As the only independent “certifier” of forest practices in BC at the moment, the Board is uniquely positioned to provide guidance to those national and international organizations that certify and those companies that seek certification.

During 1998 the Board undertook nine forest practice compliance audits and 13 investigations of complaints from the public. Eleven audit reports and eight complaint investigation reports were released, some of which were started in previous years. The Board also completed two special investigations and participated in seven appeals at the Forest Appeals Commission.

Highlights of work in 1998 include:

Special Investigation of Coastal Streams – The Board’s report showed dramatic improvements in forest practices near coastal streams and significantly less environmental impacts compared to pre-Code days. However, there are some continuing problems with inadequate riparian reserves and improper practices due to misclassification of streams.

Challenges of Forest Development Plans – The Board challenged three forest development plans. Administrative review decisions on two of the three challenges indicate fairly low standards for information that must be included in plans presented to the public and government, which causes the Board some concern.

Changes to the Forest Practices Code – While the Board supported many of the government’s 1998 Code changes, concerns were expressed to government about reducing the public’s opportunities to review and comment on operational plans.

In 1998, Board members Cindy Pearce and Jack Toovey completed their terms, each having served with the Board since its creation in 1995. Frances Vyse also completed her term last month. Four new members were appointed to the Board in March 1999: Fred Parker, Ingrid Davis, Mark Haddock and Liz Osborn were all appointed for three year terms. Cabinet appoints members to the Board on the basis of their knowledge and experience with forestry issues. Board members reside in communities throughout the province.

The Board is BC’s independent watchdog for sound forest practices, providing British Columbians with objective and independent assessments of the state of forest planning and practices in the province, compliance with the Code, and the achievement of its intent.

The Board’s main roles are: auditing forest practices, undertaking investigations in response to public complaints, undertaking special investigations of any Code related forestry issues, participating in administrative reviews and appeals and providing reports on Board activities, findings and recommendations.

Forest Practices Board
Phone: (250) 387-7964

July 13, 1999