Sunshine Coast forest plan drops community values
VICTORIA –A new forest stewardship plan in the Stillwater lands on the Sunshine Coast no longer addresses the full range of values that were determined through public input and involvement, according to a newly released Forest Practices Board report.
“Given the effort that members of the public put into the Stillwater Pilot Project, they reasonably expected that government would ensure that commitments made under the pilot planning agreement would be effectively and faithfully transferred and officially sanctioned under B.C.’s new forestry legislation,” said board chair Bruce Fraser.
The investigation resulted from public complaints about the new plan, prepared under the Forest and Range Practices Act(FRPA). The earlier plan was produced under the Forest Practices Code as part of a pilot project government set up to test a results-based approach to forest regulation.
Since the original Stillwater plan was approved by government, the forest licence has changed hands twice and the legislation governing forest practices changed from prescriptive to results-based.
The complaints that prompted the board investigation were about the difficult format of the new forest stewardship plan, changes made to the membership of the local community advisory group, and the loss of objectives that were in the pilot plan.
While the board noted that both the licensee and the forest district had made efforts to make the new plan more accessible, it also found that the planning requirements have changed under FRPA from providing clear, detailed information about proposed forest practices and community values to providing broad and more general objectives. This made it difficult for the public to interpret and provide meaningful comment on the forest stewardship plan or to track existing commitments.
The plan also covered all of the licensee’s coastal operations including Vancouver Island, the Queen Charlotte Islands and the mainland, which added to the difficulty.
The result is a plan that obscures at least some of the values identified by the community with its pilot plan, putting at risk public confidence in forest management for the area.
“As we continue to develop and implement FRPA-based forest stewardship plans and to rely on voluntary advisory processes as the primary vehicle for more detailed public involvement, we need to ensure that we maintain the public trust,” said Fraser.
The Forest Practices Board is B.C.’s independent watchdog for sound forest and range practices, reporting its findings and recommendations directly to the public and government. The board:
- audits forest and range practices on public lands;
- audits appropriateness of government enforcement;
- investigates public complaints;
- undertakes special investigations of current forestry issues;
- participates in administrative appeals; and
- makes recommendations for improvement to practices and legislation.
Forest Practices Board
Phone: 250-356-1586 or 1-800-994-5899
November 22, 2007