BCCFR Challenges Forestry Industry to Enter 21st Century

Members of the BC Coalition for Forestry Reform (BCCFR) were heartened by the positive and realistic recommendations proposed in Mark Haddock’s final report on professional reliance. The report was commissioned by the BC government, and released to the public June 28. The report’s complex title, “The Final Report of the Review of Professional Reliance in Natural Resource Decision-Making,” couldn’t hide the simplicity of its findings: BC’s forest industry must change.

Ariel image of recent clear-cuts in the Okanagan. Image: BC Coalition of Forestry Reform

The report contains extensive and frequently harsh criticism of today’s forestry regulation and the resulting harvest practices being employed by the forest industry. This was no surprise to BCCFR’s spokesperson, Debbie Demare, who says, “As BC’s forests dwindle, logging is going deeper and deeper into community watersheds, previously untouched recreation and tourism areas, and environmentally sensitive areas that even the industry admits they would never have considered harvesting even five years ago. The report’s message is clear. The economic and social costs to rural BC are growing as BC’s timber supply dwindles. But the industry hasn’t adapted to these new realities.”

The public submissions that contributed to the report’s findings often contained heart-wrenching stories of environmental destruction, small rural communities forced to invest millions of dollars to clean up water coming from previously healthy community watersheds, and an outdoor recreation and tourism industry losing revenue and growth due to overly aggressive clear cutting.

That is why the BC Coalition for Forestry Reform (BCCFR) is calling on the provincial government to immediately implement the recommended changes to forestry regulation and governance.

“If the forest industry’s leadership won’t enter the 21st century we have to inspire them to do so,” says Demare. “That is why the BCCFR urges the provincial government to immediately implement the recommended changes to forestry regulation and governance. The future of BC’s economy and forests are at stake.”

The BC Council of Forest Industries (COFI) had a different response to the report’s findings. COFI’s membership list is a who’s who of the BC forest industry. COFI declares they are “the voice of the BC forest industry.” After 2,200 feedback forms from the public, 102 extensive submissions from stakeholders, 1,800 surveys from qualified professionals, a 135-page report with 123 specific recommendations for change, COFI states in a news release:

“Mr. Haddock’s report misses the opportunity to focus on meaningful improvements to the governance of professional associations, drifting well beyond his terms of reference to propose unjustified changes to the forestry regulatory regime unrelated to professional reliance.”

Demare says COFI’s “unjustified changes” stance is neither realistic nor appropriate.

“The final report makes it very clear that the forest industry is stuck in the past,” she says.“A past when forests were plentiful, BC’s rural economy was largely resource dependant, and the climate was more benign—when reducing wildfire risk had no role in the business of harvest planning, and people turned a blind eye to environment destruction in favour of short-term economics.”

BCCFR agrees that forestry is still an important part of BC’s rural economy. But the forest industry has been shedding jobs for years, replaced by the new economic drivers for rural BC: tourism, commercial outdoor recreation, agriculture and wineries, high tech, and all the supporting services these rapidly growing industries create.

The BC Coalition for Forestry Reform is a grassroots alliance of BC communities advocating for culturally and economically sustainable forestry practices. It advocates for forest management based on long-term, landscape level planning, a mandatory shared decision-making process with local communities, careful incorporation of public needs and values, and full recognition of forests’ non-timber values including water, wildlife, tourism, and recreation. Learn more at https://bccfr.org/.

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