Who owns the resource?

The provincial government’s Area Based Forest Tenure Consultation website declares that the proposed license conversion is simply intended to help address the issue of a declining timber supply in B.C.’s Interior caused by the mountain pine beetle. A flurry of opinion pieces this week would seem to suggest the proposal is more complex, and calls for more scrutiny. All of the commentary certainly points to the reality that there are conflicting tensions at work in looking for control to shape the future of forest management in this province. Some outtakes:

“BC forests are facing unprecedented challenges these days, whether it be the mountain pine beetle devastation of vast areas of forests, dwindling timber supply, mill closures, overharvesting, lack of reforestation and silviculture, cutbacks in forest service staff, gutting of forestry inspections, ramped up raw log exports, as well as various problems associated with climate change and ‘cumulative impacts’. So, why is the government so transfixed by TFLs at this time to the point of obsession, especially given the huge difficulties facing the forestry sector? Are vested interests at work here? For other global investors, a Tree Farm licence becomes an investment and asset in itself, a casino chip on the international market.”
– Peter Ewart, Tree Farm Licenses and Global Financiers, 250 News

“The consultation now underway is not full, it is not provincewide and it is not public. It is designed to obtain feedback only on the government’s predetermined scheme to convert replaceable forest licenses (to cut timber) into tree-farm licenses – a proposal that will benefit only a monopoly of large companies and one that the public has repeatedly rejected.”
– Norm Macdonald, B.C. Liberals Are Giving Away Our Forests to Their Business Buddies, The Province

“Dividing exclusive access to timber among the big four puts smaller players, such as small forestry businesses and those owned by First Nations and communities, at a disadvantage. The details of the shift have not been finalized, but the proposal looks to be at odds with B.C.’s stated goals to create more opportunities for First Nations and communities. And tying the future of B.C.’s forest industry to the performance of four companies, whose share of those replaceable volumes of Interior timber has already increased from 63 per cent to 68 per cent over the past five years even while total available timber fell by seven million cubic metres, is a risky move.”
– Ngaio Hotte and Harry Nelson, Volume vs. Area, The Vancouver Sun

“The genesis of area-based conversions originated with the Special Committee on Timber Supply that recommended to ‘Gradually increase the diversity of area-based tenures, using established criteria for conversion and a walk-before-you-run approach’. To implement this recommendation the government is gathering public input – a prudent next step for a very important topic. Kudos to Minister Thomson for having the conviction to employ this approach.”
– Rick Jefferey, Area-based Tenure: Neither Good nor Evil, Coast Forest Products Association

“How did we get to this point? It is no secret that this redressed proposal is especially aimed at companies operating in the Interior. After the mountain pine beetle epidemic, the province allowed a significant increase to the annual cut to deal with massive quantities of dead or dying trees in this region. But that process has almost run its course: dead wood is running out and forest companies are cutting down more and more living trees, also known as green timber. In a headline-making case, West Fraser and Canfor took one million cubic metres of green timber over and above the allocated cut, without penalty by the B.C. government.”
– Jens Wieting, B.C. Forest Giveaway Threatens to Speed Up Collapse, Straight.com

“The only evident plan is to keep the rates of timber harvesting unsustainably high, thereby making the eventual collapse of available timber even more painful for forest-dependent communities, a policy based on the premise that it is better to have more jobs today and none tomorrow rather than fewer jobs today and some tomorrow.”
– Anthony Britneff, Tree-farm Licenses a Failure in Forest Management, The Vancouver Sun

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