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FOREST INK: Changes to B.C. forest policy signal new approach to management

The government seeks a balanced approach
Jim Hilton pens a column on forestry each week for the Williams Lake Tribune. (File photo)

A reader brought to my attention a recent change in the provincial governments forest policy, removal of the “Unduly reduce the supply of timber clause.”

The government press release on Feb. 15 was covered by a number of local radio stations and environmental news outlets. The removal of this clause was a big deal for environmentalists as it had restricted any removals to less than one per cent for non-timber uses. The press release does not mention the specific clause but makes a more general comment as follows: “repealing outdated wording in the Forest and Range Practices Act regulations that prioritizes timber supply over all other forest objectives, like water quality, wildlife habitat and biodiversity.”

As expected the government seeks a balanced approach to the new changes. Premier David Eby stressed collaboration with First Nations and industry by accelerating actions to protect our oldest and rarest forests while the same time supporting innovation in the forestry sector so our forests can deliver good, family-supporting jobs for generations to come.”

The government also used the news release to announce new funding proposals.

At the centre of the eight-point plan is $25 million for new Forest Landscape Planning (FLP) tables that will drive improved old-growth management while incorporating local knowledge and community priorities.

“The Province is doubling the new BC Manufacturing Jobs Fund to $180 million and expanding eligibility province wide. The BC Manufacturing Jobs Fund will, for example, support mills to process smaller-diameter trees and manufacture higher-value wood products, such as mass timber. It will accelerate shovel-ready projects across the manufacturing ecosystem that will bring direct benefits and stable, family-supporting jobs to communities throughout the province. As we work to protect more old growth, we know we need to accelerate our efforts to build a stronger, more innovative forestry industry that better shares the benefits with workers and communities.”

Bruce Ralston, Minister of Forests, said forestry is a foundation of B.C.’s economy.

“That’s why we are doubling provincial investments to help mills retrofit to get off old-growth logs and manufacture more high-value wood products right here in B.C., so we create more jobs from every tree.”

Additional actions to accelerate implementation of the Old Growth Strategic Review during the next year include:

• developing and implementing alternatives to clear-cutting practices, such as selective harvesting techniques, that better support forest resiliency, ecosystem health and climate adaptation, through a new $10-million silviculture innovation program;

• Increasing Indigenous participation in co-developing changes to forest policy through $2.4 million provided to the First Nations Forestry Council;

• Protecting more old-growth forests and biodiverse areas by leveraging hundreds of millions of dollars of philanthropic donations to fund conservation measures supported by the Province and First Nations, through a new conservation financing mechanism to be set up within six months;

• Enabling local communities and First Nations to finance old-growth protection by selling verified carbon offsets that represent long-term emission reductions through the new Forest Carbon Offset Protocol 2.0, which will be finalized this year; and

• Completing the Old Growth Strategic Action Plan by the end of 2023, to be developed in collaboration with First Nations and in consultation with stakeholders.”

While some of the proposals have been discussed before it is easier for the government to implement them now with all the industry announcements of reduced shifts and permanent mill closures.

Read More: FOREST INK: The Age of Nature

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