My thanks to all of you who’ve contributed to the Board’s success over the past year. The cooperation and feedback we receive goes a long way to making our work rewarding and helps us to continually adapt and improve.
This will be my last message as Chair, and I want to express my appreciation for the opportunity I’ve had to lead the Board over past few years. It’s been an honour to serve the public in this role, and I’ve enjoyed our constructive relationship with a wide range of stakeholders. I would especially like to acknowledge the support I’ve received from present and past board members and staff, whose dedication, skills and insights I’ve found to be invaluable and educational.
The board fulfils a unique role in the management of activities on BC’s public forests, and it’s been a pleasure to build upon the work of my predecessors. While I’ve sometimes had to tell people things they didn’t want to hear, my aim has been for the board to render well reasoned, balanced opinions. Perhaps equally important, each project has been an opportunity to explain to the public how their forest management system actually works. I hope this sets a tone for more informed and open dialogue about our future choices.
Over its 17-year history, I believe the board has proven the all-around benefits of independent oversight in the forest sector, and many share this view. There’s clearly an opportunity to now extend these benefits to a broader spectrum of resource activities, providing the kind of transparency and objectivity that builds informed public confidence. In particular, as the mineral and energy industries expand their presence on the land, they may find considerably more support if the public can be assured that in addition to the jobs and financial benefits those industries provide, they will also adhere to high environmental standards.
I’ve enjoyed a variety of roles since starting my forestry career 40 years ago. The Forest Practices Board has given me a place to bring that experience to bear on numerous questions about the soundness of forest practices, fairness, and public policy. For this forester, it has been an unparallel opportunity.
Merry Christmas to all and a wonderful and rewarding 2014.
Smithers Board Meeting
In September, the Board travelled to Smithers, BC, for two days of meetings and field visits. It was a jam-packed visit where we were treated to some excellent presentations and very thought provoking discussions. Highlights include a presentation by Alta Gas on the environmental review process for the Forest Kerr and McLymont independent power projects that will connect to the Northwest Transmission Line. They expressed concerns about multiple overlapping permits, approvals, monitoring and compliance processes. We had an excellent discussion with the Bulkley Valley Research Centre about local issues and research priorities. The regional executive team from the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations freed up some time from their meeting to drop by and talk to the Board about their perspective on regional issues they are currently working on. That was followed by a meeting with the chief forester and senior staff from West Fraser, who discussed a variety of topics with the Board, including community involvement and area-based tenure. That evening we had dinner with the MFLNRO regional ADM, and the Board got the executive perspective on forest and resource management in the Northwest.
Day 2 had us touring the Smithers Community Forest, visiting a research plot with government research staff and then having an open session over lunch with numerous government staff, industry people and community groups at the beautiful new Nordic Lodge in the Smithers Community Forest. Many thanks to the Bulkley Valley Research Centre folks for helping to organize the field day.
Audit Season Concludes
The Board’s audit season wrapped up in October, just as the snow began to fall in the mountains.
We completed nine audits this summer, near Terrace, Burns Lake, Prince George, Mackenzie, Quesnel, Columbia Valley, Princeton, Sunshine Coast and Southern Vancouver Island. Audits looked at two BC Timber Sales operations, a BC Hydro transmission line, 4 small forest tenures, 11 forestry licences to cut, 1 tree farm licence and 10 woodlots. We also completed fieldwork for a special investigation of all new bridges constructed since January 2010 in the Cariboo-Chilcotin, Rocky Mountain, Vanderhoof, Chilliwack and Okanagan-Shuswap Districts.
Auditors found more compliance problems with roads and bridges this year, continuing the worrying trend identified earlier this year in our report titled, Road and Bridge Practices – Board Audit Findings 2005 – 2011. We will be publishing the reports from these audits and the special investigation over the next few months.
New Projects Starting
As some major projects are now winding down, staff are beginning work on some new investigations.
Mitigation of Breaches to Natural Range Barriers
In late October, Staff carried out field work for an investigation of natural range barriers and compliance with FRPA requirements to protect them. This is a common issue raised in concerns the Board receives from the range sector. This investigation will:
- examine how major forest licensees and woodlot licence holders identify and commit to mitigating alteration of natural range barriers in their FSP/WLP, and government requirements, guidelines or policies that apply to other licence holders to address natural range barriers;
- determine whether the mitigation is likely to adequately protect forest and range resources; and
- make recommendations for improvement, where appropriate.
This investigation will be provincial in scope, to enable the Board to examine and compare different approaches used for the mitigation of breaches to natural range barriers.
Are Forest Stewardship Plans Meeting Expectations?
In 2006, the Board examined the first forest stewardship plans (FSPs) prepared under the Forest and Range Practices Act (FRPA) and identified a number of concerns with those FSPs. This investigation is a follow up to that report. The Board will look at all current FSPs and re-assess the attributes evaluated in the 2006 Board report:
- Whether FSPs meet FRPA’s content requirements.
- The utility of FSPs for public review and comment.
- Whether FSP strategies and results are measurable and enforceable, as that can affect government’s ability to hold industry accountable for outcomes.
The Board will also evaluate whether results and strategies in FSPs are innovative and/or are likely to contribute to government’s objectives, whether government is enforcing FSPs, and whether FSPs are improving over time.
Are Administrative Penalties Being Used Appropriately?
The investigation will explore whether administrative penalties under the Forest and Range Practices Act and the Wildfire Act are being used appropriately. To the extent that penalties may not have been fair, reasonable, or transparent, or decision-makers have not found contraventions, the investigation will explore the reasons why.
The investigation will include penalty determinations issued since 2007, focusing on determinations relating to environmental and wildfire requirements, given their importance to forest and range management.
Begbie Complaint Reponse
In November, we published a report on a complaint investigation involving proposed forestry activities across from Revelstoke Mountain Resort in the Begbie Falls Recreation Area. The response to this report has been excellent. We received positive feedback on the Board’s findings and conclusions from a variety of people. This report really struck a chord with local communities who are feeling left out of resource decisions, either by the provincial government or forestry licensees. It also highlights the issue of local resource plans that were prepared over the last two decades, some of which are now dated and in need of updates or cancellation.
The licensee in this case has responded positively to the investigation findings and we sincerely hope our involvement leads to better communication and relationships in the community. Whenever we investigate a complaint, our first priority is to help those involved find ways to work together to address concerns and develop a good relationship. However, we also strive to find the learning that we can all take away from the particular circumstance and share that broadly to foster continuing improvements in forest management.
Progress on Bulletins & Reports
We have a number of significant reports nearing completion and we expect to publish them over the next few months. These include:
- Summary of Complaints from 1995 to 2012
- Special Investigation of Government’s Objectives for Water in Community Watersheds
- Special Investigation of the Management of Karst Features on Vancouver Island
- Special Report on Range Planning and Practices
- Special Report on Risk and Decision-Making
Finally, we plan to publish the Board’s review of the Forest and Range Practices Act, after nearly 10 years of implementation, early in 2014.
Continued Interest in Roads and Bridges
“The work the Board does is very valuable and needed.”
“The report and findings are what we are seeing out there but not being reported or followed up on.
The presentation was excellent and needed.”
These are just two of the comments from professional engineers and geoscientists who attended a presentation on our special report on road and bridge findings in audits, issued in February 2013. Staff presented the findings at the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of BC (APEG BC) Annual General Meeting in Whistler this past October, where it was very well received.
Responses to Past Reports
Special Investigation of Reporting the Results of Forestry Activities
Special Investigation of Reporting the Results of Forestry Activities
In December 2011, the Board published a special investigation on compliance with the reporting requirements in Section 86 of the Forest Planning and Practices Regulation. The Board made several recommendations to government about improvements to reporting. We are pleased to report that the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations has been responsive to most of those recommendations.
The Ministry has made significant improvements in the way information on wildlife tree retention is reported and can be viewed and analyzed. It also made changes to the reporting system to ensure the information can be seamlessly used in updates to forest cover mapping. The Ministry has also implemented an ongoing quality assurance program that has been identifying priority issues and implementing corrective actions to solve those issues. Users of the reporting system have responded very positively to the Board report and the proportion of reports with high priority issues has fallen from over ten percent in February 2012 to less than four percent currently.
However, the Board remains concerned that has been little progress on a system to report road building and deactivation.
Conserving Old Growth Forests in BC – Implementation of Old-Growth Retention Strategies Under FRPA
Since the Board published this report in April 2012, the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations has taken several actions to address the concerns raised. Field staff were surveyed to explore some of the issues the Board found and to identify areas for improvement. A working group was formed to oversee old growth management initiatives and is currently developing a provincial action plan. The Thompson-Okanagan region recently started an assessment project to evaluate the level of incursions into OGMAs by forest and non-forest tenure holders. And, responding to a key finding in the Board report, the Ministry is working with the Oil and Gas Commission and the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers to develop requirements for non-forest tenure holders in the Dawson Creek TSA to address OGMAs, with a plan to expand this to other areas in the northeast.
In November, the Board welcomed Garth Lord, P. Eng, to the staff as a Manager, Audits and Investigations. Garth has over 30 years experience in the BC forest sector, both on the coast and in the interior, working on forest roads and bridges. He has worked with the Board on numerous audits, providing expertise on forest roads and bridges, and we are pleased to have his knowledge available to us full time now.
Garth replaces Clare Vincent, RPF, who left the Board to move her family to Europe for a couple of years. We are all extremely envious, but we wish her the best in this adventure.
We bid a fond farewell to Rachel Holt, who served on the Board for seven years, most recently sitting as Vice-Chair, and Al Gorley, Board Chair for the last four years. Both of them brought immeasurable expertise and insight to the Board and they will be missed.
We are pleased to announce that Board members Ralph Archibald and Dr. William McGill have both been re-appointed to the Board for another term. In addition, Dr. William McGill is appointed the new Vice-Chair. Congratulations!
We are pleased to announce that Cabinet has appointed Timothy Ryan as the new Chair of the Forest Practices Board. Tim will start his new position in January.
Tim is an RPF with more than 30 years of forest sector experience, the past 21 in leadership positions in BC, Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario and Minnesota. We welcome him to the Board.
We will be participating in a session for new forest tenure holders at the annual Truck Loggers Association Convention and AGM on Wednesday, January 15, 2014, in Vancouver. Come and find out what forest licence holders need to know about Forest Practices Board audits and what to expect if we select your licence for audit.
Also, look for our booth at the Resources North Conference in Prince George, January 22, 2014, the Western Silviculture Contractors Association AGM in Kelowna on January 30, and the Association of BC Forest Professionals AGM in Kelowna February 12-14. Drop by and talk to Board members and staff.