New forest stewardship plans need more details, improved accountability

VICTORIA – The first forest stewardship plans (FSPs) under new results-based forestry legislation lack clear results, and make it difficult for the public and government to hold forest companies accountable, according to a Forest Practices Board special report released today.

The board reviewed 15 of the first FSPs submitted by forest companies under the Forest and Range Practices Act (FRPA). FRPA replaced the detailed requirements under the former Forest Practices Code with objectives for a range of forest values, such as protecting community watersheds and conserving species at risk. This “results-based” framework allows forest companies wide discretion as to how they meet these objectives.

“The Forest Practices Board supports the results-based regulatory regime,” said board chair Bruce Fraser. “Our goal with this report is to contribute to the successful implementation of FRPA, by ensuring that FSPs provide accountable and transparent information on forest practices in British Columbia.”

Under FRPA, FSPs are the only plans subject to mandatory public review before companies can begin logging on Crown land, and hundreds of FSPs are expected to be approved in the coming months for a 5-10 year period. Requirements for approving FSPs are not onerous, and all FSPs reviewed for the board’s report fully complied with the legislation.

The report identified four key concerns with the early FSPs:

  • FSPs provide very little detail about how, when and where logging will take place on Crown land. The plans cover huge land areas with no details of exactly where logging is proposed.
  • FSPs are written in complex legal language that makes it very difficult for the public to understand and comment on.
  • Most FSPs do not make commitments to measurable results or outcomes.
  • Except for default practices required by legislation, the commitments in FSPs tend to be vague and non-measurable, which will be challenging for government staff to enforce.

“These FSPs simply do not reflect the high level of forest practices we find in our regular board audits and investigations,” said Fraser. “We would like to see those good practices reflected in FSPs, both to provide greater accountability and to maintain B.C.’s global reputation as a leader in sustainable forest management.”

In a letter to Forests and Range Minister Rich Coleman, Fraser makes several suggestions to address the board’s concerns. Fraser suggests government clarify what it considers successful achievement of FRPA objectives, prepare plain-language stewardship statements to explain the objectives, and consider approving FSPs for a shorter time period to allow for adjustments in response to public concerns.

“The board recognizes that FSPs are only one part of the overall framework for forestry management in B.C.,” said Fraser. “Sound stewardship is possible even with vague plans, and we will continue to monitor practices on the ground as the FSPs are implemented.”

The Forest Practices Board is an independent public watchdog that reports to the public about compliance with the Forest Practices Code and the achievement of its intent. The board’s mandate has been retained under the new Forest and Range Practices Act (FRPA). The board’s main roles under FRPA are:

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

Erik Kaye

Forest Practices Board
Phone: 250 356-1586 / 1 800 994-5899