30th July 2019
...Continued From Part 1
How Does the Private Managed Forest Lands Program Work?
In 2004, the Forest Land Reserve Act was repealed, the Forest Land Reserves were dissolved, and the Private Managed Forest Land Act was enacted “to encourage sustainable forest management and protect key environmental values on private managed land.” The owners of the 278 managed forest properties, which range in size from 3.5 hectares to 166,000 hectares, make a commitment to meet five general environmental objectives, covering soil conservation, water quality, fish habitat, wildlife habitat and reforestation. They pay for the program’s operating costs through a levy of 13 cents/cubic metre, and in return they receive a municipal tax reduction. In 2011, on Cortes Island, Island Timberlands paid $5-6/acre, compared to $62/acre for other landowners. On its 1,800 hectares, over 20 years the program will save Island Timberlands $4.7 million in property taxes.
The program is managed by a five-person Private Managed Forest Land Council, consisting of two owner reps, two government reps, and a jointly chosen chair. They make and enforce regulations, make compliance determinations, conduct inspections and audits, review landowner applications, and review annual declarations by the owners. Inspections are made by hired professional foresters at least once every 5 years, and they boast a 99.5% compliance rate, based on a 15% inspection rate. There is no First Nations engagement, no community engagement, no public environmental engagement, no public input into logging plans, and no long-term planning.
Regarding methods of logging, forest landowners are not required to submit a plan for approval, and they are not constrained on their annual timber volumes – there are no sustainable harvest level requirements. They have to follow standards of practice with regard to harvesting, stream protection, road construction/maintenance, and reforestation, and they have to honour the five environmental objectives. The devil is in the details, however:
Soil conservation: Owners have to follow set practices with regard to road-building, but not for general logging.
Water quality: Owners have to pay attention to Local Water Intakes (LWI), but not to water run-off in a watershed as a whole.
Fish habitat protection: streams are classified by width, and whether they are fish-bearing or upstream of an LWI. Tree-retention is required for most, varying from 30 metres for A to 15 metres for C. On streams classified D or E, which are less than 1.5 metres wide, no tree retention is required. Riparian buffers are measured on slope distance without being corrected to horizontal, enabling smaller buffers with less tree retention adjacent to steep slopes.
Wildlife habitat: measures must be taken to protect species listed in the Wildlife Act and the Species at Risk Act such as the red-legged frog, but not for non-threatened species. Biological studies are not required before harvesting, so unless an owner chooses voluntarily to engage a professional, there is no formal means by which species and habitats at risk might be identified and protected.
Reforestation: newly cleared forest areas must be restocked within 5 years and successfully regenerated within 15 years, but there is no requirement to protect the best or oldest trees that drop seeds of proven genetic quality, allowing natural regeneration while also producing the big dead wildlife snags that have ecological value.
There is no mention of any need to consider or mitigate forest carbon loss.
There is no mention of any need to protect community drinking watersheds.
There is no mention of any need to take measures to reduce fire risk.
There is no mention of any need to consider cumulative ecological and hydrological impacts from activities within a shared watershed.
How can a broader, more ecologically inclusive perspective be brought to the governance of the program?
We suggest expanding membership of the Council to include more people, bringing in people who have climate, ecological, and ecological forest management expertise, and First Nations heritage.
We suggest forming regionally-based Forest Stewardship Advisory Councils, including participants from First Nations, universities, regional districts, local communities, local mills, forestry organizations and ecological organizations, to meet twice a year to review practices and make recommendations for change.
We suggest that forest owners be required to post their harvesting plans and invite public input prior to operations commencing.
We suggest widening the mandate of the program, adding six new objectives to serve the common interest in ways that are clear and measurable.
To ensure that watersheds that are the source of drinking water for local communities produce consistent, high quality, naturally filtered drinking water.
To reduce average forest carbon emissions per hectare and increase average forest carbon storage per hectare over the long-term (200 years).
To increase climate resilience by means of ecological forest management.
To reduce fire risk by thinning and other means at both stand and landscape levels.
To engage in long-term 200-year forest planning and set sustainable harvest and thinning rates which will help to advance a regenerating forest along the old growth curve, using ecological forest management methods including landscape planning, canopy retention, multi-age trees, the preservation of wildlife snags, and natural regeneration from identified seed trees.
To engage with First Nations and local communities to identify community values, sites of special interest, and locations for hiking and mountain bike trails on ownership parcels larger than 1,000 hectares, in accordance with the spirit of the Right to Roam legislation that was put before the BC Legislature in 2017 to ensure the right of citizens “to access public lands, rivers streams and lakes and to use these spaces to hunt, fish and enjoy outdoor recreation in accordance with the law.”
When considering how forest owners respond to the proposed new mandates, we recommend that a distinction be made between large and small landowners, since there is a big difference between the management of forest land covering 166,000 hectares and land covering 40 hectares.
We suggest four site-management changes:
60-metre no-harvest zones along lakes and Class A streams, 40 metres alongside streams Class B and C, and 20 metres along streams classes D and E, all to be measured on slope distance corrected to the horizontal from the high water mark of a stream.
End slash pile burning, in accordance with work being done by the Coastal Forest Sector Revitalization Initiative and partners in the Cowichan Valley. We suggest that measures are developed to quantify air quality changes and the anticipated reduction in respiratory ailments, bringing healthcare cost savings.
End spraying with glyphosate and other harmful herbicides to eliminate trees that are economically less valuable but still ecologically important. Glyphosate has been shown to increase the risk of cancer to those exposed by 41%.
Require a secondary species planting program on recently harvested lands including cottonwood, maple, bitter cherry and alder, mimicking the natural forest succession process and providing important forest ecology properties including wildlife habitat.
Wildlife and Species at Risk
If a biological or ecological study is not conducted it is not possible to identify species at risk before harvesting. Given the urgency of the global ecological crisis, regarding which the International Union for the Conservation of Nature reported in July 2019 that a third of all assessed species are now red-listed as being in danger of extinction, we suggest that a study by a professional biologist prior to harvesting is required, and that criteria for the protection of identified endangered species and their habitats should be codified.
...continued in Part 3