The WSCA has asked the Premier’s Forestry Roundtable to make regulatory changes to expedite fuel management work near communities. It also asked that government require licensees to post bonds, set up a trust or some other form of security to ensure silviculture obligations are funded if companies go bankrupt. The latter would serve to protect contractors from going unpaid for forestry work.
Forestry Roundtable – Forestry Regulatory Review
Government figures estimate 1.7 million hectares of forested land within the wild land urban interface pose a fire threat to communities across B.C. This study used data gathered prior to the massive outbreak of the mountain pine beetle epidemic. It also used forest canopy conditions to estimate the fire threat. This would not have taken into account fuel conditions on the forest floor which drive fire intensity and severity. It is likely then that the WUI hazard is underestimated.
In spite of numerous catastrophic fires in the urban interface this decade as well as recommendations from the Auditor General (2001) and government’s own Firestorm 2003 Provincial Review only a few thousand hectares have been treated. Interface neighbourhoods are not the only areas at risk. Community watersheds, utilities, transportation infrastructure and other values are also exposed to catastrophic fire. This condition is set against the fuel build now occurring in the wake of the beetle plague. It may be that the fire events to date will be modest in comparison to what we could experience in the future with climate change gathering force across an ailing forest landscape.
The problem in implementing a timely strategy resides in jurisdictional diffusion, the confusing if not contradicting roles of the agencies involved, absence of proper guidance as to what constitutes appropriate treatment defining, as well, who is certified to prescribe it and a regulatory framework designed to accomplish other objectives, often at cross purposes to treatments in the WUI.
The failure to meet silviculture obligations by insolvent licensees threatens to degrade the long term sustainability of the provincial/crown resource and devalue the crown’s forest-based assets. Delays or outright failure to meet silviculture obligations when a licensee declares bankruptcy are an increasing concern as the industry undergoes its most dramatic down cycle in many decades, and as many new and financially less stable companies gain access to tenure.
While in many cases where replaceable volumes/tenures are involved, the obligations will be picked up quite quickly when a new owner takes control and assumes those liabilities, there is currently no mechanism to deal with the potential fall down in the renewal of the resource as a result of delays or failure. In addition, as has happened several times in recent years, silviculture contractors and seedling nurseries can be left with no recourse for payment for services already completed which enhance and renew what is, in effect, the Crown’s asset.
(See attached Forestry Roundtable documents above for the full article.)