Stan Hagen B.C Minister of Sustainable Resource Management has released his long awaited discussion paper on the Liberal promise to establish a working forest in the province.

A Working Forest for British Columbia ~ Discussion Paper Executive Summary

Over the past several decades the management of Crown forest lands has undergone significant changes. Increasing demands on the land base have presented government with the ongoing challenge to reduce uncertainty and ensure the benefits of our forests sustain our resource dependent commu-nities.

Despite the efforts to address uncertainty through land use planning and other initiatives, more can be done to enhance certainty for our resource communities. The proposed Working Forest is one step toward that goal.

At its simplest, British Columbia’s “Working Forest” is defined as all Crown forest land in the province that is outside of protected areas and parks.

By clearly defining the Working Forest, the provincial government hopes to:

• increase certainty on the land base for the forest sector and other users,

• make administration of Crown forest land more efficient and cost-effective, and

• balance economic priorities with our need for conservation and our responsibility for stewardship.

The proposed policy follows through on a key New Era commitment to:

• Establish a working forest land base, to provide greater stability for working families, and to enhance long-term forestry management and planning.

The evolving relationship with First Nations in B.C. is also a vital consideration in improving certainty about the land base, and addressing aboriginal interests is a clear priority for the provincial government. The proposed Working Forest policy and its implementation will not limit negotiations with First Nations in the treaty process, nor will it affect the province’s obligations to consult about or provide accommodation for any infringement of aboriginal interests.

The proposed policy framework for the Working Forest has five main elements:

1. Defining the Working Forest

The government has defined the Working Forest of B.C. as all Crown forest land in the province that is outside of protected areas and parks – some 45 million hectares.

2. Working Forest Policy Goals

The four central goals of the proposed policy are: • To maintain and increase the economic and social benefits that flow from the Working Forest.

• To identify and provide additional certainty and access about those lands within the Working Forest which have specific priorities for timber and a variety of other values and uses.

• To assure that land-use decisions affecting the Working Forest are supported by a consistent and transparent process that recognizes forestry and also addresses all other identified values.

• To assure that society’s environmental goals are achieved in the Working Forest.

3. Land-Use Planning and the Working Forest

The government will continue to use land-use planning to provide certainty about access to the land base within the Working Forest. Sustainable Resource Management Planning is the general approach that the government intends to use for detailed map-based planning. First Nations interests, as well as public interests, will be included in consultation on land use plans.

4. Information and Monitoring for the Working Forest

The provincial government will need information and analysis to monitor significant trends for the Working Forest. It is developing an integrated land and resource data warehouse and an integrated land and resource registry containing information on all legal entitlements on Crown land and both will play key roles in defining the actual boundaries of the Working Forest designation. Information-gathering and monitoring will be done in partnership with the private sector.

5. Administering the Working Forest

The provincial government proposes that a new legal Working Forest designation be established, to include all Crown forest land outside of protected areas. For the most part, the boundaries of the Working Forest would be defined by other, existing boundaries (e.g., private, municipal, treaty settlement lands, etc.). The new Working Forest designation would not affect existing provincial legislation and policies respecting land access and management for the sub-surface resource sectors. Similarly, oppor-tunities for First Nations treaty settlements involving Crown land would not be impeded in any way by the new designation. The provincial government is not proposing to include private land in the Working Forest designation.

For the complete paper: