Dear Premier Clark:
With the release today of the Forest Practices Board report entitled How much of British Columbia’s forest is not satisfactorily restocked, and what should be done about it?, British Columbians are reminded once again about the importance of healthy forest lands to our province’s prosperity.
British Columbia is unique in that over 94% of the province is Crown Land, owned by its citizenry. As a result, the public must rely on government to be a good steward of that public land. 55 million hectares of British Columbia is forest land, and the Minister of Forests is responsible for managing, protecting and conserving these forest lands not just for today, but for future generations.
The health of BC’s forests is under threat, not just from the Mountain Pine Beetle and wildfire, but from short-term or uninformed decision making by government.
Over the last 11 years, the BC Liberals have implemented a very deliberate forest policy and today forest-dependent communities are living with the effects. 40,000 forestry jobs have already been lost.
Legislative changes were made that eliminated government’s responsibility to restock forest lands damaged by fires, windstorm, disease or pests. The government then cut the budget to the ministry of forests making it more and more difficult for forest professionals to monitor the health of the forests. When forest professionals raised legitimate concerns about government actions, the forest minister of the day Pat Bell publicly ridiculed them.
And now, as has been laid out by the Forest Practices Board (FPB) report, the government has attempted to change the goal posts by redefining established outcome markers such as Not Satisfactorily Restocked (NSR). Instead of taking meaningful action to ensure the forests for the future, two forest ministers have tried to fool the public with misleading numbers.
The FPB has been clear that the public has an expectation that government would act broadly to provide the best outcomes on the public land base, and would make informed decisions about how best to mitigate the effects of Mountain Pine Beetle on future timber supply.
The FPB is calling on government to develop good public policy that meets the expectations of the public to protect our most valuable public asset, and states its belief that action on this issue must be taken quickly.
I believe that British Columbia can once again have a forest industry that is a primary economic driver, but that will only happen if we make significant investments in our public lands.
I would urge your government to fully implement the recommendations outlined in the Forest Practices Board’s report.
MLA Columbia River – Revelstoke
Hon. Steve Thomson, Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations