VICTORIA — New legislation in B.C. aims to grow a more diverse and inclusive forestry sector.
The Forest Amendment Act, 2021 intends to create more opportunities in forestry for local communities, First Nations and smaller companies. Officials added it would also establish a fair framework for compensation regarding changes to harvesting rights and enhance the government’s ability to manage timber harvesting in the public interest.
“Our forests make B.C. one of the best places to live, but old forestry policies have limited opportunities for local communities, First Nations and smaller companies,” said Katrine Conroy, minister of forests, lands, natural resource operations and rural development, in a press release. “By fixing the Forest Act, we’re building on our vision for forest care to better share all the benefits of our forests for generations to come.”
A release from the province stated the legislation is in line with the government’s vision where workers and communities benefit from secure, innovative forestry jobs, Indigenous people are full partners in sustainable forest management, and the oldest and most ancient trees are protected.
The province noted there is significant concentration of forest tenures in the province and almost all of the available forests are already under tenure. The province added this makes it difficult to promote innovation and attract new entrants into the sector, including value-added operations and made-in-B.C. manufacturing.
They argue through new tools such as a special-purpose area, government will be able to reduce the timber harvesting rights of existing forest tenure holders, compensate them and then redistribute the timber harvesting rights to First Nations, communities and BC Timber Sales.
According to the province, the amendments will address uncertainty with respect to compensation rules by developing a consistent and clear framework outlining what is compensable and how it is to be valued. This will apply in instances when a licensee’s timber-harvesting rights are reduced to support reconciliation or other objectives. The province intends to double the amount of replaceable forest tenure held by First Nations.
Other changes will require tenure holders to provide current information on forest inventory to the chief forester.
The province stated this will increase transparency of the sector and support decision-making in the public interest. The legislation also aims to increase accountability for log exporters through a new auditing system.