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BC Liberal Government Revives Proposed “Forest Giveaway Scheme” for Major Logging Companies on Public Forest Lands

Media Release: Ancient Forest Alliance, April 2, 2014

BC Liberal Government Revives Proposed “Forest Giveaway Scheme” for Major Logging Companies on Public Forest Lands
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Tree Farm Licence 44, Klanawa Valley, Vancouver Island, November 2013, south of Bamfield and Port Alberni. Large-scale clearcut logging in Tree Farm Licences has depleted and fragmented the once vast old-growth forests of Vancouver Island.
Photo: TJ Watt

For Immediate Release

April 2, 2014

BC Liberal Government Revives Proposed “Forest Giveaway Scheme” for Major Logging Companies on Public Forest Lands

Revived proposal would entrench the status quo of unsustainable overcutting by granting exclusive logging rights to major timber companies over vast areas of public forest lands by expanding Tree Farm Licences.

“Despite being killed by widespread public opposition just a year ago, the BC Liberals never stop trying to revive their ‘Corporate Timber Zombie’ that is always reaching out to grab our public forests. But this time they’re strengthening and boosting it with a massive injection of PR. No doubt this will make it harder to kill. But kill it we must, as this forest giveaway scheme will further entrench the unsustainable status quo of massive overcutting on public lands, ultimately resulting in the collapse of human communities and ecosystems,” stated Ken Wu, Ancient Forest Alliance executive director. “We’ve seen this familiar pattern of resource depletion, ecosystem collapse, and massive job loss played out time and time again throughout history, and forestry in BC is no exception – the process is well advanced on BC’s coast, and is now underway in BC’s Interior.”

Yesterday, the BC Liberal government revived their proposal to allow major logging companies to gain exclusive logging rights over vast areas of public forest lands through the expansion of Tree Farm Licences. See the BC government’s media release at: http://www.newsroom.gov.bc.ca/2014/04/public-input-invited-on-expansion-of-area-based-tenures.html and their “Discussion Paper: Area-Based Forest Tenures”: http://engage.gov.bc.ca/foresttenures/files/2014/03/Forest_Tenure_Discuss_Paper.pdf

A massive public outcry a year ago resulted in the BC Liberal government rescinding the same proposal prior to the provincial election. See: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/b-c-backs-off-forest-land-volume-area-trade-plan-1.1386946

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 public (Crown) land. TFL’s currently constitute a small fraction of BC, about 15% of the province’s 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 TSA.

While now gently billed as a “consultation process” regarding “area-based tenures” - which evokes images of Community Forests and family-run Woodlots - in reality the government’s proposal aims to allow companies that already have a guaranteed cut through replaceable, “volume-based licences” – that is, mainly Forest Licences held by the major logging companies - to convert them into Tree Farm Licences: “The Province is looking at options to convert some or a portion of some volume-based forest licences to new or expanded area-based tree farm licences (page 11, Discussion Paper: Area-Based Forest Tenures). In BC, five major companies have been allocated two-thirds of the allowable cut under replaceable Forest Licences: http://blogs.theprovince.com/2013/10/20/ben-parfitt-are-big-five-forest-firms-about-to-get-a-windfall/

The scope of the new consultation is a rigged process that doesn’t ask “whether” or not Tree Farm Licences should be expanded, but instead asks “how” they should be implemented. The BC government’s Discussion Paper only lists “Potential Benefits” (page 9) but no “Potential Problems”. Its starting assumption is that companies with volume-based licences should and will be allowed to convert them into Tree Farm Licences in areas of the province. Their media release states:

“The scope of the public consultation will focus on how best to achieve government’s objectives within any conversion process on volume-based to area-based tenures, and specifically on the following:

-the social, economic and environmental benefits that should be sought from proponents through conversions, and

- the criteria for evaluating applications and the process for implementing conversions, including specific application requirements and target locations for conversion opportunities.”

In addition, despite the government’s press release that attempts to downplay the extent of the proposal as if it will be limited to pine-beetle affected regions (which is still an enormous part of the province), that “Conversions are not being considered on a province wide basis. They are one ‘tool in the toolbox’ that may help with mid-term timber supply issues in parts of the Interior that have been impacted by the mountain pine beetle,” in contrast their comprehensive Discussion Paper states the government’s wider ambitions: “Initially, these opportunities would be limited in number and would only be available in areas impacted by the mountain pine beetle. Over time, they could be offered in other parts of the province. (page 11, Discussion Paper: Area-Based Forest Tenures)

Perhaps the main crux of the drive for Tree Farm Licence expansion is to enhance the major logging companies’ claims to compensation and to undermine potential forest conservation measures (for fish and wildlife habitat, recreation, old-growth forests, endangered species, scenery, tourism, etc.) and First Nations treaties, which pose the main sources of “uncertainty” to the companies’ unfettered access to the remaining timber supply. The BC government’s Discussion Paper states:

“The major benefit of such a change is the increased certainty of timber supply that an area-based tenure would apply to the licence holder.” (page 10, Discussion Paper: Area-Based Forest Tenures )

and

“The licence holder is compensated if the allowable annual cut of the licence is reduced by more than 5 per cent as a result of Crown land deletions.” (page 8, Discussion Paper: Area-Based Forest Tenures)

“This is a dangerous proposal that will give increased rights to the major logging corporations on public lands at the expense of the sustainability of local communities and ecosystems. Greater corporate certainty by granting them exclusive logging rights over huge areas of public lands will make it harder to protect forests for wildlife, recreation, scenery, and tourism, and could make First Nations treaties more expensive, lengthy and difficult to resolve. It will entrench the massive, short-sighted overcutting taking place that has already driven the crisis in BC’s woods this far,” stated TJ Watt, Ancient Forest Alliance campaigner.

The BC government propagates the myth that increased corporate control on public lands fosters better stewardship and greater sustainability in their Discussion Paper: “With area-based forest tenures, it is in the best interests of the licence holder to ensure the long-term sustainability of the area to secure future harvests.” (page 8, Discussion Paper: Area-Based Forest Tenures). In reality, BC’s Tree Farm Licences are bought and sold frequently by highly mobile companies that themselves frequently change ownership – these major companies are not tied to the land like communities and living creatures are. Some of the province’s most notorious, internationally famous examples of massive clearcutting, overcutting, landslides, destruction of salmon streams, annihilation of old-growth forests, locked gates, and ruined scenery and recreational opportunities are in the province’s Tree Farm Licences.

See an opinion piece by former BC Forest Service forester Anthony Britneff regarding many of these issues at: http://www.vancouversun.com/news/Tree+licence+rollover+public+benefit/8059516/story.html#ixzz2MvKFwm3s

In the Globe and Mail, it was reported recently that two of the BC Interior’s major companies, Canfor and West Fraser, recently overcut almost a million cubic meters of live green timber where they were supposed to be only taking beetle-killed wood. Incredibly, the companies were let off the hook by Forest Minister Steve Thomson without penalties:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/british-columbia/timber-companies-cant-see-the-consequences-for-the-trees/article17732435/

“Instead of penalizing companies that are overcutting our forests, this government is now looking to potentially reward them by further entrenching their unfettered access to vast tracts of public forest lands through new Tree Farm Licences,” stated Wu. “This is the BC Liberal government’s attempt to facilitate the last great timber grab by the major companies to log until the end of the resource – at the expense of communities and ecosystems.”

PHOTO CAPTION: Tree Farm Licence 44, Klanawa Valley, Vancouver Island, November 2013, south of Bamfield and Port Alberni. Large-scale clearcut logging in Tree Farm Licences has depleted and fragmented the once vast old-growth forests of Vancouver Island, causing the collapse of forestry employment in once-wealthy resource towns like Port Alberni and of whole ecosystems. The BC Liberal government stated yesterday that the creation of new Tree Farm Licences across BC will benefit the environment because "it is in the best interests of the licence holder to ensure the long-term sustainability of the area."


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