Leaving it until the last moment of their 90 day agenda the BC Liberals terminated New Forest fulfilling another election promise. The question for enhanced forestry is now what?
The Liberal government fulfilled their promise to eliminate New Forest Opportunities Ltd. In a letter sent August 30 Deputy Forest Minister Don Wright gave notice of the termination the agency¹s labour force agreement with Forest Renewal BC effective at the end of this year.
The announcement will serve to cancel the 1998 Collective Agreement between the IWA and New Forest Opportunities Ltd. The agency will officially closes it doors December 31, 2001. During the next four months New Forest staff have been instructed to phase out their operations including training, placing, and paying contractor-run union silvicultural crews on the West Coast.
As leader of the official opposition Premier Gordon Campbell promised three years ago to eliminate New Forest Opportunities Ltd. However even without the Gordon Campbell¹s commitment it would be hard to justify the controversial corporation¹s continued activity. It had failed to attract laid-off IWA loggers and mill workers into the silvicultural work force nor did it play a significant role in placing workers on silvicultural projects as it was originally intended.
But most importantly, with government funding for enhanced forestry and backlog reforestation declining steadily since the the middle of the last decade, many contractors found it galling to watch New Forest Opportunites ltd. receive a FRBC budget allocation of almost $2.5 million. In many cases that funding was almost equal to, in once case it actually exceeded, the amounts many of the province’s forest regions were receiving for their total enhanced forestry programs. However, in spite of the small savings dismantling New Forest represents, the silvicultural industry faces a much larger problem; increasing the overall level of enhanced forestry practiced in the province. So far, according to those inside the FRBC core review their have been few enhanced forestry champions stepping forward to proclaim the value of tending forests beyond basic levels. The forest industry and silvicultural foresters have been disappointedly silent during the review which concludes early this fall. This absence of input may influence the amount of attention enhanced forestry receives from a government clearly interested in finding ways to save money rather than spend it.
The WSCA has been promoting enhanced forestry practices since the outset of the FRBC review through meetings with the core review staff and the minister of forests.