Good outcome to Fort Nelson area audit, but some concerns noted

VICTORIA – Good overall results are reported in a series of Forest Practices Board audits released today, which cover all forestry activities in a section of the Fort Nelson forest district, the first such comprehensive review.

However, the board has some concerns about regeneration of trees after logging, potential erosion and stream damage from pipeline construction, inconsistent standards for oil and gas activities and gaps in Forest Practices Code enforcement.

“The board is satisfied that the outcome of this audit confirms that there is good forest stewardship in the audit area,” said board chair Bill Cafferata. “However, there is a confusing array of legislation for oil and gas activities with different standards applied to that industry than those that apply to the forest industry for the same activities.”

The board undertook a series of audits of activities governed by the Forest Practices Code. Forestry practices of major forestry and oil and gas operators and government enforcement of the code were the main activities audited. This is the first examination of how well forestry activities of all operators in a specific area are adhering to the code.

The audit found that within the audit area, Slocan Forest Products had not replaced harvested cottonwood trees with free-growing stands within the specified time in most of the valley bottoms examined. This was the most serious non-compliance encountered; however, the board notes that Slocan is addressing this problem.

The significant non-compliance found in the oil and gas sector was pipeline construction that had potential to cause erosion and damage to streams. There was too little evidence to determine how much the sedimentation from oil and gas activities had affected fish habitat.

Within the audit area, the board found a lack of inspections of oil and gas activities by the Ministry of Forests and the Oil and Gas Commission and an overall lack of code enforcement by the Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection. However, the board commends these government agencies, as well as the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the former B.C. Assets and Lands Corp., for conducting a joint audit of oil and gas activities elsewhere in the Peace region.

The board recommends that the Oil and Gas Commission review legislative inconsistencies to streamline and simplify the regulations governing road construction, while ensuring appropriate environmental standards are in place.

The audit examined Slocan Forest Products’ operational planning; timber harvesting; road construction, maintenance and deactivation; silviculture practices and obligations; and fire protection practices.

The major oil and gas activities considered in the audit were construction of well sites and access roads by Anadarko Canada Corp. and Anadarko Canada Energy Ltd., as well as the construction of pipelines and access roads by both companies and by Petro-Canada. The audit looked at clearing forestland and certain road construction and maintenance activities undertaken in connection with oil and gas exploration and development.

All code-related compliance and enforcement activities of the responsible government organizations were also subject to audit. Included were the Ministry of Forests, the Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection and the Oil and Gas Commission.

This report overviews the effectiveness of the stewardship of the land in an area of about 385,000 hectares. The intent of this audit was to examine all activities related to the Forest Practices Code within a selected geographic area. The audit area was chosen randomly and extends from Fort Nelson southwest along the Prophet River and southeast along the Fort Nelson River to the Fort Nelson forest district boundary.

Recommendation Follow-Up 

Cathi Piazza

Forest Practices Board
Phone: 250 387-7964
1 800 994-5899