January 28, 2013
Premier, Forest Minister need to respond to Province report about possible legislation on Tree Farm Licences Green Party of BC Leader Jane Sterk says
Victoria - Green Party of BC Leader Jane Sterk is demanding clarification from BC’s Minister of Forests and Premier Christy Clark with regard to a report in The Province newspaper that suggests legislation will be introduced in February giving cabinet the power to ‘roll over’ volume based forestry licences into land based Tree Farm Licences.
Ben Parfitt, a resource-policy analyst with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, states in an op-ed piece that a bill may be introduced that would “give the provincial cabinet powers to grant forest companies de facto private control over public forestlands without first having to notify or consult with the public”.
“Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations Steve Thomson and Premier Christy Clark need to tell us immediately whether or not the Liberal Government is planning to introduce this type of legislation,” Ms. Sterk said. “And if it is their intention, they need to explain how such a drastic change to forest policy in BC can be implemented with no consultation, no report and no deliberation or debate in the Legislature.”
Most forestry licences in BC are volume based, granting companies the right to cut a set volume of timber; Tree Farm Licences grant companies tenure over specified areas of crown forest lands for long periods of time, an arrangement that creates ‘in effect… their own semi-private fiefdoms’ Mr. Parfitt warns.
“This raises serious issues that cannot possibly be addressed in what I understand might be a couple of paragraphs of legislation rushed through a short sitting of the Legislature,” Ms. Sterk said. Some of the issues raised are:
- Implications for First Nations treaty rights and the province’s ‘duty to consult’ when those rights are affected;
- Opportunities for the province and communities to maximize the economic and public benefits derived from crown forests in BC;
- The ability of government to implement and monitor best environmental practices on crown forest lands;
- British Columbian’s right to be consulted and informed with regard to decisions about the use of crown resources.
“We need assurances from Minister Thomson and Premier Clark that all of these values will be respected in any decisions that affect the way we grant licences to forest companies in BC,” Ms. Sterk said.
She said the Green Party will push to rescind without financial compensation any legislation granting cabinet undefined powers to establish TFLs. “This is more than an issue of prudent and fair use of BC’s forest resources; it is an issue of governance. The Green Party of BC believes firmly that people and communities need to be involved in decisions affecting the use of resources. A change of the magnitude reported should not be rushed through prior to the election. ”
The Green Party of BC commits to managing forest resources for present and future generations in a way that creates long-lasting, wood industry employment in communities throughout BC. Find out more Green Party of BC positions on forest management and governance in the Green Book 2013, which is posted at greenparty.bc.ca.
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