Forest policy reforms to rebuild coastal forest sector

January 28, 2019

By: The Working Forest Staff

To create and support good jobs in British Columbia’s coastal forest sector, government is making policy changes to increase the processing of B.C. logs on the coast and to reduce wood waste by redirecting it to B.C.’s pulp and paper mills.

The changes, as part of the Coast Forest Sector Revitalization Initiative, were announced by Premier John Horgan at the annual Truck Loggers Association (TLA) convention. Government is taking steps to reverse a systemic decline that has taken place in the coast forest sector over most of the last two decades.

“We’re committed to rebuilding a strong and healthy coastal forest sector for British Columbians,” said Premier Horgan. “Through the forest policy reforms I’m announcing today, we will see more logs and fibre processed in B.C., supporting B.C. workers, their families, and communities.”

The Coast Forest Sector Revitalization has five main goals:

  • Rebuilding solid wood and secondary industries to ensure more B.C. logs and fibre are processed in B.C.
  • Improving harvest performance to ensure more fibre is available for domestic mills, including the pulp and paper sector.
  • Maintaining a credible auction system by taking steps to ensure bids on timber sale licenses are independently made.
  • Fostering stronger business-to-business relationships between BC Timber Sales, major licensees, and First Nations.
  • Restoring public confidence through amendments to the Forest and Range Practices Act and auditing the privately managed forest land regime.

The goals will be implemented through a series of legislative, regulatory and policy changes over the next two years. The policy reforms were developed after engaging with a broad cross-section of First Nations, industry and labour over the last six months. Engagement will continue over the next few months as some policy proposals are finalized.

“We can no longer apply yesterday’s thinking to today’s challenges,” said Doug Donaldson, Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development. “We need to shift our approach away from the status quo and create markets for waste fibre that, until now, has been left in harvest areas. We will continue to work with all forest-sector participants so together we can enjoy the benefits from a stronger coastal forest sector.”

Effective July 1, 2019, the fee charged for log exports will be revised to be based on harvest economics. New criteria for log exports from certain geographic areas, based on local harvesting economics and subject to engagement and consultation with First Nations, will be developed.

Changes to waste policy are designed to redirect some of the approximately two million cubic metres of wood waste on the coast – or approximately enough wood waste to fill 800 Olympic-sized swimming pools each year – to pulp and paper producers and the bio-products/bioenergy sector, supporting CleanBC’s renewed bioenergy strategy. A coastal fibre recovery zone will be established this spring, where penalties will apply for leaving waste in excess of new lower waste benchmarks in harvested areas. Over the next year, changes will be made to increase penalties for late reporting of waste.

To increase First Nations participation in the forest sector, and to directly receive their input at the beginning of the forest management process, BC Timber Sales will engage with interested First Nations and other licensees in collaborative, area-based planning. This will create efficiencies and better landscape-level planning and forest management.

BC Timber Sales will also work with interested First Nations and licensees in business arrangements that would see all parties sharing timber volume, expertise, and/or capital and all parties sharing decision-making and mutual benefits. BC Timber Sales will maintain its role of auctioning about 20% of the province’s allowable annual cut to support the market-based timber pricing system.

To increase public trust and confidence in forest-sector decision-making, this spring, the ministry will introduce amendments to the Forest and Range Practices Act to improve public input process and increase transparency. The ministry will review the effectiveness of the privately managed forest land framework.

Coast forest-sector revitalization to reinvigorate B.C.’s forest sector supports the shared priority between government and the B.C. Green caucus and is part of the Confidence and Supply Agreement.

“The announcements made today by the Premier will fundamentally address growing concerns about forest management on the coast. As timber-harvesting contractors, we recognize change is required and that the industry needs certainty. We are hopeful the announced initiatives will support industry sustainability, and the TLA remains available to continue working with the Premier to meet the government’s objectives while the contractors’ concerns are heard,” said David Elstone, executive director, Truck Loggers Association.

“Huu-ay-aht First Nations, the B.C. government and our business partners share the same goals – revitalized coastal forestry and long-term reconciliation with First Nations. Today’s forestry policy announcements are an important step toward achievement of these twin goals. Huu-ay-aht looks forward to further engagement with the B.C. government and our business partners to ensure implementation of these policies is a win/win/win,” said Robert Dennis, Chief Councillor, Huu-ay-aht First Nations.

“We’re pleased to see that this plan will address some of the major challenges forestry has on Vancouver Island and the coast. We look forward to working with government and industry to find better solutions to waste and increase value-added opportunities for the well-being of the region,” adds Dallas Smith, president, Nanwakolas Council.

“B.C. coastal pulp and paper mills are in urgent need of additional pulp fibre supply. We support changes to improve the availability of fibre supply and ways to reduce the costs of scaling and handling pulp logs. We look forward to working with First Nations and forest licensees to increase the fibre supply from Vancouver Island and the south coast for pulp mills and sawmills,” said Brian Baarda, chief executive officer, Paper Excellence.

“We are pleased to see the government taking action on the forestry file. Increasing fibre availability is of immense importance for mills such as ours that are completely reliant on the open market for log purchases. Given that we operate a sizable remanufacturing plant, enhancing the opportunity for rough lumber to be processed into higher-grade items is a positive move. The increased opportunity for engagement of First Nations with industry is significant as we believe that partnerships are productive, whereas adversarial relationships are not. Ultimately, these actions are not unlike baking a cake. The right ingredients are in place and the cake is in the oven. We trust it will rise well and satisfy all,” said Brian Brown, manager, fibre and log supply, Riverside Forest Products Inc.

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