Will BC Forest Policy Shift Change Silvicultural Obligations?

Few in Victoria know where all the policy flux and negotiations over the softwood lumber agreement will finally land. There are more questions than answers at the moment.

How will Forest MInister de Jong’s strategic shift in forest policy affect silvicultural obligations?

There are more questions than answers on this point. Few at the executive level I spoke to last week in the ministry of forests knew exactly where their minister would land on a number of issues. Much of this is due to the ongoing softwood lumber talks. But that is not the whole reason. Clearly the Liberals are in uncharted terrain. They have yet to produce a discussion paper on their proposed sweeping changes. The situation may be so fluid and changeable anything written could be irrelevant the next day. Don Wright the deputy minister of forests is one of those who is well positioned to know where things are headed. He was in Washington last week. Yesterday I sent him the following note which presents some key questions regarding forest policy changes and forest management activities. As you will see the questions I ask raise the issue of whether we will be working for forest companies in the future or a whole new array of players in a market-based forest economy.

21 November 2001

Memo to: Don Wright Deputy Minister of Forests From: John Betts Executive Director Western Silvicultural Contractors’ Association RE: Recent forest policy strategic shifts and silvicultural responsibilities

Don: I am referring to your 24 October memo sent to “All Forests Employees” re: Softwood Lumber Update. I have two questions of clarification assuming that the pace and course of current events hasn’t already made these matters obsolete.

In the context of market-based reform you mention four elements of government’s agenda to make us “a leading edge forest industry that is globally recognized for its productivity and environmental stewardship.” Two seem to have direct implications for my constituency. One is “Breaking the link between forest management activities and timber processing by eliminating timber processing requirements of tenure holders.”

Does breaking the link between forest management activities and timber processing apply in some cases to silvicultural obligations since they are forest management activities too?

The same question arises out of another of the elements described as “Eliminating the requirements to harvest uneconomic timber by: 1) removing the minimum cut control requirement; and 2) changing utilization requirements by eliminating requirements to harvest or process uneconomic timber, while retaining requirements related to ecological and silvicultural purposes, fire protection and forest health.”

The sentence is not clear to me. Are the ecological, silvicultural, health etc. issues eliminated requirements or exceptions to the eliminated requirements? Again the same question: does this imply a shift in silvicultural obligations?

The question that I have managed to repeat more or less twice so far is more appropriate in the context of proposed tenure shifts that could see significant volumes of wood sold by auction or markets. In this context I ask the same question. If the major logging companies are in a future regime just buying logs where do the silvicultural obligations that go with that harvested wood lie?

Also how would this affect enhanced forestry strategy? I see in this context individual logging contractors possibly winding up with reforestation obligations. There could be some interesting alliances here between logging and sustainable forestry contractors. However, I don’t see logging contractors—primarily preoccupied with skimming the wood off the land and into log markets—as inclined to want to make the long term strategic thinking and commitment that enhanced stewardship requires. We already have this problem under the current regime.

Just the same question from two angles here. And it is not just related to silviculture. The same questions come up for protection, ecological and forest health activities that my members participate in as well.