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Posted February 22, 2013

Pine Beetle used as Trojan Horse to Increase Privatization of BCs Public Forest Lands through Ministerial Fiat instead of Democratic Legislative Vote

Ancient Forest Alliance Media Release, February 22, 2013

Pine Beetle used as Trojan Horse to Increase Privatization of BCs Public Forest Lands through Ministerial Fiat instead of Democratic Legislative Vote
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Old-growth logging in TFL 46.
Photo by TJ Watt

For Immediate Release

February 22, 2013

Pine Beetle used as Trojan Horse to Increase Privatization of BC’s Public Forest Lands through Ministerial Fiat instead of Democratic Legislative Vote

On Wednesday, the BC Liberal government introduced a proposed bill that would enable the massive increase of private property rights for major logging companies on BC’s public forest lands by empowering the Forest Minister to quickly create new Tree Farm Licences (TFL’s) in BC through fiat – that is, through policy decree rather than through a vote in the Legislative Assembly of elected politicians (Members of the Legislative Assembly - MLA’s). See: http://www.newsroom.gov.bc.ca/2013/02/new-legislation-supports-mid-term-timber-supply.html

The proposal was inserted in a larger omnibus bill, the Miscellaneous Statutes Amendment Act (see: http://www.leg.bc.ca/39th5th/1st_read/gov08-1.htm)

“This is a dangerous, undemocratic proposal that will give increased rights to the major logging corporations on public lands at the expense of local communities. Greater certainty through exclusive logging rights over huge areas for these companies will make it harder to conserve forests for wildlife, recreation and scenery, and will exacerbate the overcutting already taking place at the expense of local communities ,” stated Ken Wu, executive director of the Ancient Forest Alliance.

“While the government has stated that the pine beetle-killed trees are the reason for wanting to give logging companies greater rights in the Central Interior, the proposed bill gives province-wide powers for the Forest Minister to do this anywhere through policy fiat instead of through a democratic vote in the Legislative Assembly,” Wu continued. “On the ground it means more clearcuts, less old-growth forests, ruined scenery and recreational opportunities, more dirty drinking water, and destroyed salmon streams.”

A Tree Farm Licence (TFL) is a defined geographic area that is tens or hundreds of thousands of hectares in size that confers exclusive logging rights to one logging company on Crown (public) lands. TFL’s currently constitute a minor fraction of BC’s landbase, perhaps about 10% of the geographic area and about 20% of the cut. Most of the province’s forests are found in Timber Supply Areas (TSA’s) where no specific geographic area is granted to companies for exclusive logging rights – instead they are given a volume of wood (in cubic meters) through a Forest Licence (FL) that they are allowed to cut within each massive TSA each year in cutblocks planned by the Forest Service. See a map at: http://www.for.gov.bc.ca/ftp/HTH/external/!publish/web/timber-tenures/tfl-regions-tsas-districts-map-350-dpi-sep-13-2012.pdf

The BC Liberals’ public relations spin about this proposal include such lines as:

Myth: This is for the benefit of local communities, as many people want to see more Community Forests and small businesses in the forest industry.

Fact: The proposal would enable those with replaceable volume-based licences, mainly Forest Licences, to be turned into Tree Farm Licences. The vast majority of Forest Licences are held by large logging companies, they are the ones who will receive the main benefits of this “rollover” from volume-based licences to area-based Tree Farm Licences and will generally oppose any allocation of their cut to communities.

Myth: This will help logging corporations plan for the future to invest in responsible forestry and act as stewards for the resource by increasing their certainty to the land base.

Fact: Corporations are not communities. They don’t hike, fish, hunt, recreate, or benefit from having endangered species and clean water in the forests where they log. They are highly mobile, moving on to other areas as needed and are bought and sold regularly, with no long term ties to the land and certainly not to the myriads of life forms adapted to standing forest ecosystems. In 2004 the BC Liberals changed the Forest Act to allow TFL’s to be bought and sold without public oversight, enabling greater flexibility and mobility for the major logging corporations that have TFL’s, as well as removing the requirement that companies must process the logs in BC. The history of Tree Farm Licences in BC shows a regular change-over in their ownership often every several years and massive clearcut logging, depletion of old-growth forests, destruction of salmon streams and wildlife habitat, and damage to the tourism potential of our forests.

Myth: This proposal comes out of the recommendations of the Special Committee on the Mid-Term Timber Supply that was convened last summer to take public input on what to do about the impending shortage of timber to feed mills in BC’s Central Interior.

Fact: The Committee did not recommend an expansion of TFL’s and certainly not through ministerial fiat – they noted there was an appetite in communities for greater control over the resource, such as tenures like Community Forests and for small enterprises. This proposal would go the opposite direction, increasing corporate control on BC’s forests lands at the expense of communities, conservation, and First Nations rights and title by increasing corporate certainty over unceded lands. Due to the shortage of timber in BC due to overcutting and the pine beetle expansion, few companies would be willing to hand over any significant portions of their allowed cut to communities during the change over from a Forest Licence to a Tree Farm Licence – the net effect being increased corporate logging rights, not greater community control.

“Christy Clark’s BC Liberal government is increasingly out of touch with the electorate with poor to atrocious judgement. To propose something as sweeping as this before a BC election is not only outrageous, but foolish. The government needs to smarten up – and the NDP opposition needs to come out of its careful slumber too. This is now an election issue – we guarantee it,” stated Wu.

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