Opinion: B.C. not supporting its forest service

July 13, 2017

By: The Working Forest Staff

Edo Nyland, retired chief forester of the Yukon, has a few pointed questions about the B.C. government’s treatment of the B.C. Forest Service. In an article published in the Times Colonist newspaper, he claims that in 2016, the provincial government laid off 600 forest rangers and closed their ranger stations.

“The small forest-fire section of the former B.C. Forest Service survived the kill, but what could these few experts do without the large staff of rangers to do the dirty field work? We created a huge problem,” he writes.

He goes on to question the province’s preparedness to use modern fire-fighting aircraft.

Read more here.

Your comments.

  1. John V Parminter says:

    To set the record straight –
    The B.C. Forest Service component of the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations turned 100 in 2012, not in 2016. Both the B.C. Forest Service and the Fish and Wildlife Branch lost their separate identities in January 2016 and a new corporate logo replaced those previously used by each organization.
    The B.C. Forest Service underwent a major reorganization in 1978 – 1979 and emerged with new administrative boundaries, new staff positions and new legislation to provide direction and authority. There were 100 Ranger Districts and six Forest Districts prior to the reorganization. These became 46 Forest Districts and six Forest Regions.
    The positions of Forest Ranger and Assistant Ranger ceased to exist at that time. Therefore, it would be impossible to lay off 600 Forest Rangers in 2016 when such a position hadn’t existed for 38 years. There was only one Forest Ranger per Ranger District (100 positions) and certainly not five Assistant Rangers (the remaining 500 positions according to Edo Nyland’s math) per district just before the reorganization in 1978 – 1979.
    Amalgamation of Forest Districts has occurred intermittently over the years such that there are now half as many Natural Resource Districts as there were Forest Districts in the post-reorganization structure of 1979. But there are now eight regions compared to six in 1979.
    The last significant downsizing in the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations was in 2009 – 2010 with layoff notices given to 25 permanent staff. Although the Research Branch was dissolved in November 2010, most of its employees were transferred to other existing branches. Some people took early retirement packages in 2010 as part of the downsizing process.
    While the Forest & Range Practices Act (FRPA) sets standards for resource management on Crown land, it does not amount to turning the management of our public forests over to the forest industry. The FRPA was passed in January 2004. All private Managed Forests must be managed in accordance with the Private Managed Forest Land Act of 2003 and associated regulations.
    Other legislation which could be construed as having turned the management of public forests over to the forest industry are the Forest Act amendments of 1947 which authorized Forest Management Licences, renamed Tree Farm Licences in 1958.
    The B.C. Wildfire Service includes full-time safety and training personnel, wildfire and fuel management specialists plus support and administrative staff. The provincial headquarters is in Victoria (33 positions) and the provincial coordination centre is in Kamloops (32 positions). It was originally part of the Protection Branch in Victoria, which had significantly fewer than 65 positions prior to creation of the Kamloops centre. The B.C. Wildfire Service employs about 1,600 temporary fire-fighting personnel during the fire season, working out of six centres.
    Coulson Aviation of Port Alberni (owners of the Mars) purchased four C-130 Hercules between 2013 and 2016. In 2017 they bought six Boeing 737-300 aircraft. Conair Aerial Firefighting of Abbotsford uses the Air Tractor AT-802F (floatplane) and land-based Avro RJ85, Convair CV580, L-188C Electra and Q400MR air tankers. The B.C. government contracted four Air Tractor AT-802F waterbombers from Conair in 2014. The Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations believes that modern aircraft are better suited and more cost-effective than the Martin Mars.
    While Viking Air, operating from the Victoria airport, is now certified to construct and maintain the CL-215 and CL-415 “Super Scooper” waterbombers, there is no indication on their website that they are capable of converting a C-130 Hercules or a Boeing 737-300 for waterbombing duties. Coulson’s fourth C-130 Hercules air tanker conversion is being built in Mesa, Arizona. Their 737-300s are being converted in Spokane, Washington and Port Alberni.
    It is highly unlikely that any of the current third generation air tankers will be using a “bush strip.” Any well-equipped air tanker base at a municipal airport would be able to expeditiously refill the aircraft.
    Fire management agencies across Canada are aware that the fire season is growing longer, that fire behaviour is becoming more unpredictable, that wildland fuels are often at unnaturally high levels and many structures in the wildland – urban interface are at greater risk.
    I first met Edo Nyland in 1981 and we were both heavily involved with the Forest History Association of B.C. I consider him to have been a diligent researcher, which is why his production of such a fanciful letter as this is a mystery to me. Unfortunately he passed away a month after the letter was published so we will never know what motivated him.

    John Parminter, RPF (Ret)
    Sidney, B.C.

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