This article on Nova Scotia Forestry describes proposed changes in the way forestry is being planned and performed in the province. From BCCFR’s perspective, what’s most interesting about these changes is that Nova Scotia’s province-wide target for annual timber harvest volume is going to be set after they determine both the appropriate type of harvesting and the sustainable annual volume of harvesting for each unique area. This sounds exactly like the localization of harvest practices and long-term planning that BCCFR is seeking from the BC government and forest industry.
The article states the forest minister “said his department also accepts Lahey’s call for improved openness and transparency and will establish, within the next year, an independent process for environmental reviews for long term forest management licences that will include public input.” This has been the other key request to government from BCCFR – remove conflict of interest in decision making, and meaningfully involve local stakeholders.
If Nova Scotia can do it, why can’t BC?
From society’s perspective, industrial-scale harvesting has four major impacts:
– Economic value is created.
– Environmental impact occurs.
– Economic value is destroyed.
– Social impact occurs.
The perceived tradeoff between the first two impacts is what drives the “forestry jobs versus environmental protection” debate. However the public discourse around the last two is more complex. We know there are frequently negative economic impacts due to harvesting. The tourism industry can be impacted. Recreation areas, and the growing number of commercial outdoor recreation operators, can be impacted for decades. Downstream, local taxpayers pay to clean up a water supply altered by upstream roads being built, the removal of protective vegetation (i.e. the forest), and the resulting faster spring melt. Curiously, especially in our real estate crazed world, the impact on local property values when clearcuts damage the viewscape or impact private water supplies is rarely factored into the economics.
Social and lifestyle impacts may be the toughest to measure, but this is frequently the source of the most passionate and sustained local resistance to clearcutting. The people who live, work, and play in BC’s forests have an emotional, even visceral response when harvesting reduces or destroys the very reason they live in or near the forest.
The full social value of BC’s forests isn’t plotted on a map, and it has second class status in FLNRO’s rules and regulations. So how can society ensure “sustainable forest management” fully integrates all the economic and social values? It has to include local knowledge, and not surprisingly, local knowledge of our forest’s full environmental, economic, and social value is found when you actually listen to the locals! Why does BCCFR have to lobby for something so obvious?
The provincial government’s recently introduced Professional Governance Act (Bill 49-2018) created the office of Superintendent of Professional Governance in order “to ensure consistency and best practices are applied in the work of qualified professionals.” One aspect of the superintendent’s authority is the ability to define “rosters”. So what’s a roster, and will rosters matter to local communities?
The details aren’t yet clear, but in general rosters are intended to be a government-vetted list of professionals who have sufficient qualifications and experience to make professional recommendations concerning high risk undertakings. The goal is to ensure only properly qualified people are hired by industry (and government) to perform work that could significantly damage “the public interest” if done wrong.
Many BCCFR member organizations have been arguing for years that only professionals with significant experience and training in watershed protection should be utilized when determining whether the community’s watershed can withstand the impact of planned harvesting (or mining, or roads, or whatever). So the question is, how would a roster help?
Long term, it could be that community complaints will finally start to have a real impact. That is assuming a professional with too many public complaints is putting his or her roster-status at risk. Simply put, if validated public complaints result in a professional being taken off the roster, then the concerns of local communities might be taken more seriously.
So rosters may indeed bring us closer to BCCFR’s goal — to give local communities a real voice in how forestry is managed in our communities and watersheds. However, that is only true if rosters are applied to the high risk activity of logging in community watersheds. For that reason, we call on FLNRO to make sure that’s the case.
The BC Coalition for Forestry Reform is comprised of numerous organizations from mostly rural communities. We are neither anti-logging, nor anti-professional. We are, however, very experienced and informed about the complex issues of forest management when both timber and non-timber values are at stake. What brings us together is that under current regulation we must stand powerless as our local forests and watersheds strain and snap under the cumulative impact of decisions and actions performed under Professional Reliance. We are the people who drink our forest’s water. We hike, ride, hunt, ski, and snowshoe in our forests every day. The BCCFR advocates for regulatory and legislative changes to create a forest management regime that fully incorporates the experience, priorities, and local knowledge of the very communities most impacted by resource extraction.
There’s been a few articles published suggesting that the BC government’s Professional Reliance review, and especially the recommendations of the review’s Final Report, are a personal attack on professionals. For years the public has been voicing serious concern over the inherent conflict of interest that Registered Professional Foresters operate under. The RPF is responsible for protecting the public interest (e.g. watershed and visual quality protection) while simultaneously maximizing timber revenue for their employer. You don’t have to be unprofessional to be in a conflict of interest — it isn’t personal, it’s the system.
Some professionals have dismissed out-of-hand the goal of reducing this conflict of interest and improving their profession’s ability to protect the public interest. But doesn’t that just confirm the public’s concern?