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Changes to forest and range legislation improve transparency

Press Release

April 1, 2019

VICTORIA – Amendments to the Forest and Range Practices Act will support the health and sustainability of B.C.’s forests and range lands, while strengthening public confidence in how these vital resources are managed.

“We’re making overdue changes to how we do things in the woods to ensure resilient forests and on the range to support families and communities in this province,” said Doug Donaldson, Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development. “These changes are part of our plan to revitalize the forest sector, to improve public trust, find paths to reconciliation with First Nations and improve transparency and public confidence in decision-making.”

Initial changes to the act will be followed over the next two years by more substantive changes, which will be informed by a public consultation later this spring.

Changes include:

  • creating more frequent and reliable opportunities for public input;
  • improving information sharing in forest planning;
  • strengthening the minister’s ability to manage forest activity;
  • expanding the definition of wildlife in the act to help protect at-risk species; and
  • improving and streamlining range-use planning.

These changes respond to feedback and analyses received over the last decade from First Nations, the Forest Practices Board, the forest industry, the Union of British Columbia Municipalities and other resource groups.

The Forest and Range Practices Act and regulations first came into effect in 2004. The proposed new definition for wildlife comes into effect on first reading, with all other proposed changes to come into effect by regulation expected in spring 2020.

Quotes:

Garry Merkel, co-chair, Minister’s Forest and Range Practices Advisory Council –

“These preliminary changes reflect changes in society’s views by increasing focus on all the benefits that come from our forests, improving co-ordination between forest and range users, and improving public engagement and pubic interest decision-making. The next set of the changes will go even further and will do their part in ensuring that Indigenous peoples are properly engaged in the stewardship of our forests. I am excited to see what the next engagement process yields.”

Christine Gelowitz, CEO, Association of BC Forest Professionals –

“Forest professionals increasingly find themselves caught between the government’s statutory requirements and communities’ desire for a greater say in land-use decisions. We are optimistic the proposed changes to increase public input will improve clarity for both the public and the forest professionals who must balance legal requirements and public desires when making forest-management decisions.”

Kevin Boon, general manager, BC Cattlemen’s Association –

“Aligning and streamlining the range-use plan with the terms of the range agreement promises to make the administration simpler and clearer for both our members and range staff which, in turn, should allow for a more efficient process for range management.”

Brian Frenkel, second vice-president, Union of British Columbia Municipalities and councillor, District of Vanderhoof –

“Local governments have advocated for a number of years for increased consultation on forestry activities happening in their backyards. We’re pleased that the proposed amendments to the Forest and Range Practices Act provide those opportunities.”

Quick Facts:

  • Of the 95 million hectares that make up British Columbia, approximately 55 million hectares are forested.
  • Of this forested land, approximately 22 million hectares are considered part of the public timber harvesting land base. Less than 1% is harvested each year.
  • British Columbia has 51.9 million hectares of land certified to one of three internationally recognized independent sustainable forest management standards. This is more than any other jurisdiction in the world, apart from Canada as a whole.
  • There are over 140 forest stewardship plans and about 1,475 range-use plans throughout the province.

Learn More:

To follow the progress of this bill through the legislature, visit:
https://www.leg.bc.ca/parliamentary-business/legislation-debates-proceedings/41st-parliament/4th-session/bills/progress-of-bills

A backgrounder follows.

Contact:

Media Relations
Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development
250 356-7506


BACKGROUNDER

Spring 2019 amendments to the Forest and Range Practices Act

Creating more frequent and reliable opportunities for input

  • Changes will create additional opportunities for public review and comment on operational plans by requiring replacement of forest stewardship plans every five years and woodlot licence plans every 10 years. Currently, a licensee can extend a forest stewardship plan for five additional years without requiring public review and comment.
  • A forest stewardship plan is the document that forest agreement holders must prepare and have approved by government before harvesting or road building activities can begin. It contains a high-level description of potential forest development activities and standards that may take place in the plan area.

Improving information sharing in forest planning

  • Changes will improve licensee information sharing by requiring a forest operations map that includes the approximate locations of proposed cutblocks and roads. This map is to be made publicly available and will be subject to review and comment by interested parties, including First Nations and other tenured resource users. A forest operations map must be published, and review and comment must be completed before a licensee can apply for cutting or roads permits.
  • This is a new requirement to ensure those potentially affected know where roadbuilding and logging will occur.

Enhancing stewardship of resource values

  • Amendments will expand the definition of wildlife in the act to align with the definition under the Wildlife Act and allow for the protection of ecological communities. Currently, only animals are identified. Changes will ensure that the Forest and Range Practices Act and regulations regime uses consistent terminology for “at-risk” species (endangered, threatened, special concern).

Improve and streamline range-use planning

  • Amendments will improve and streamline range-use planning by eliminating the range stewardship plan and by enabling a range-use plan to be managed through an online platform.
  • The term of a range-use plan will be aligned with that of the range agreement to improve administrative efficiency.
  • Currently, range-use plans are for a term of five years, with a possible extension of five years. Range agreements are in the form of a licence for 15 to 25 years, or a permit for one to 10 years.

Contact:

Media Relations
Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development
250 356-7506

Connect with the Province of B.C. at: news.gov.bc.ca/connect

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