By: The Working Forest Staff
VANCOUVER SUN — There is approximately 33,500 square kilometres of land currently under timber tenures in B.C. but any future transfers would only apply to the 26,000 square kilometres of old-growth forest land that the government announced would be deferred earlier this month.
The government has introduced long-awaited legislation it says will reduce timber harvesting rights for the major industry players and double the tenure held by First Nations. The new rules also set out how logging companies will be compensated if their timber rights are transferred.
“There is significant concentration of forest tenures in the province and almost all of the available forests are already under tenure. This makes it difficult to promote innovation and attract new entrants into the sector, including value-added operations and made-in-B.C. manufacturing,” the government said in a press release, explaining why it introduced the Forest Amendment Act on Monday.
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But not all of the timber held in tenures in B.C. will be subject to transfers.
There are approximately 33,500 square kilometres of land currently under timber tenures in B.C. but any future transfers would only apply to the 26,000 square kilometres of old-growth forest land that the government announced would be deferred earlier this month. First Nations have until early December to decide whether to agree to the deferrals.
Forests Minister Katrine Conroy said discussions about transferring control over the deferred land would begin after that.
“We are going to have those government-to-government discussions with Indigenous nations on whether those areas will be put into deferrals and then we will have two years to determine if those will be permanent or not,” she said. “If they become permanent deferrals, then we will be looking at compensation to the companies.”
The legislation includes changes in how companies that lose timber rights will be compensated. A framework outlines what is subject to compensation and how it will be valued. But Conroy could not provide any estimates of how much that could cost.
In its news release, the ministry wrote that some timber rights could be transferred under a new designation called a “special-purpose area.”
“Government will be able to reduce the timber harvesting rights of existing forest tenure holders, compensate them and then redistribute the timber harvesting rights to First Nations, communities and B.C. Timber Sales,” it said.
Conroy told reporters only very small logging operations would be undertaken in a special purpose area.
“That will be part of a forest landscape plan to determine what areas could be used for potential roadways, access for communications or parks and that’s what it will be used for,” she said.
The new bill was introduced with just eight days remaining in this legislative session, which means the government will likely use its majority to push the bill through by Nov. 25.
Conroy dodged a question about whether the government’s plan is to limit debate and scrutiny by the opposition.
“You will have to ask the house leader (Mike Farnworth, who sets the government’s timetable for debates) but I am convinced we will get through this legislation before the end of this session,” she said.
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