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Area-based tenures report released

Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations

VICTORIA – Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations Minster Steve Thomson has issued the following statement today (Thursday, Aug. 28):

"I would like to thank Jim Snetsinger for his comprehensive and professional report on government's proposal to enable conversions of some volume-based forest licences to new or expanded tree farm licences.

"His report contains 35 recommendations covering the full spectrum of economic, social, environmental, First Nations and administrative issues surrounding the proposed conversion of volume-based forest licences to area-based tree farm licences.

"His report stresses the need for strong First Nations and community support for any proposed expansion of area-based tenures in the province and says new proposals should incorporate measurable and verifiable public benefits.

"Jim's recommendations provide a valuable roadmap on how to proceed. However, given the recent Supreme Court of Canada Tsilhqot'in decision and requests from forest companies and communities to focus on key immediate priorities, the ministry will not be proceeding with legislative changes that would enable forest licence conversions in fall 2014 or spring 2015.

"We will continue to consider the recommendations in the report as part of ongoing work in our ministry."

A copy of Snetsinger's report is available online at: http://engage.gov.bc.ca/foresttenures

Recommendations for area-based forest tenures

1. To address the social licence issues associated with any conversion initiative, I would recommend a number of the social objectives proposed by government be made mandatory. These include:

a) Demonstrable and quantifiable public benefits.

b) Investments in enhanced silviculture activities to grow the allowable annual cut.

c) A commitment to an enhanced level of public engagement.

d) A clear demonstration of strong local support for any conversion proposal.

2. A detailed timber supply analysis should be completed at the proponent's expense that demonstrates the area for the proposed tree farm licence will support an allowable annual cut that is commensurate with the allowable annual cut being surrendered of the forest licence(s) and commensurate with the general timber supply forecast, timber profile and logging "chance" compared to the timber supply area as a whole. The analysis must also demonstrate that the licensees in the remaining timber supply area are not unduly impacted.

3. The timber supply analysis should be completed to approved Ministry standards and procedures and using the information and assumptions for the most recent timber supply review.

4. The Ministry should clearly communicate requirements for timber supply analysis to be carried out by the proponent to support their conversion application.

5. It should be a contractual condition for any new or expanded tree farm licence that the licensee provide their forest inventory to the government in a compatible format so that it can be posted on the government web site.

6. The government should require the licensee to turn back five to 10 per cent of the allowable annual cut as a mandatory conversion condition. It is recommended that this volume could only be used to create new or expanded area-based tenures in the timber supply area from which the turn back originated.

7. The government should consider exempting the first 200,000 cubic metres of a proponent's replaceable forest licence allowable annual cut from the mandatory turn back provision. This would be consistent with the approach used in the 2003 tenure take back under the Forestry Revitalization Act.

8. The existing contractor requirements, as contained in the Timber Harvesting Contract and Subcontract Regulation, tied to a proponent's replaceable forest licence must be carried forward and tied to the new or expanded tree farm licence.

9. All the commitments made by proponents during the conversion process need to be measurable, verifiable and incorporated in their new licence document as contract provisions.

10. The Ministry should develop a penalty regime supported by legislation for non-compliance with licence commitments made as part of the conversion process.

11. The Ministry must ensure sufficient resources are available to monitor and report on licence performance relative to the commitments made during the conversion process.

12. Government has recently confirmed the primary goal for BC Timber Sales is to provide credible representative price and cost benchmark data for the market pricing systems through auctions of public timber. Any conversion process should consider the impact on BC Timber Sales and their achievement of their primary goal.

13. The enabling legislation and regulation(s) should be flexible enough to allow proponents' creativity and innovation to surface. This should include the ability for other tenures, including BCTS to be added to a proposal and operate within a new or expanded tree farm licence. For example, a forest licence held by Licensee A could be included in a proposal for conversion submitted by Licensee B. If the application was successful, a tree farm licence would be issued to Licensee B and Licensee A would operate within the tree farm licence held by Licensee B. It should also be possible for two or more different forest licence holders to pool their licences and apply for one tree farm licence to be operated under a consortium model.

14. An efficient process to remove land from a tree farm licence for high priority government economic objectives should be included in the enabling legislation.

15. A proponent's conversion application should demonstrate their commitment to enhanced utilization of the timber resource. This could include but is not limited to how they will provide access to users of low-quality fibre and the non-conventional portion of the timber profile.

16. Government should require the proponent to describe how they will manage the forest land for a full crop rotation that includes provision for forest health at the various stages of stand development, the management of biodiversity, fish, wildlife, water, soils and recreational resources. Strategies that address climate change considerations should also be included in their proposal.

17. Consistent with the Special Committee on Timber Supply recommendation, government should rigorously evaluate the proponent's past performance, their commitment to sustainable forest management, their commitment to investments in forest management including but not limited to silviculture, inventories and forest infrastructure (i.e., roads and bridges).

18. The proponent's proposal should demonstrate how they intend to use the most current science and technology in acquiring data and developing operational planning.

19. The Government should develop an approach to gauge public support and determine the public benefit for any conversion proposal.

20. The proponent's proposal should demonstrate their proposed approach for a robust annual reporting on the achievement of their commitments.

21. The Minister should examine the potential for developing an efficient and effective approach for engaging with First Nations organizations at the provincial level on the intended direction for amendments to the Forest Act and any new regulations supporting the amendments.

22. A consultation strategy should be developed for each specific conversion process to ensure that the affected First Nations are engaged and consulted throughout any conversion process.

23. Commitment to ensure continued First Nations and public access to any new tree farm licence lands.

24. First Nations' cultural and spiritual areas need to be recognized and accounted for in any conversion process.

25. The proponent's application should demonstrate how they intend to increase First Nations' participation in the forest sector.

26. Conversions in timber supply areas heavily affected by the mountain pine beetle should optimally occur after the Chief Forester has determined an allowable annual cut which considers the post-pine beetle reality.

27. Conversions need to be based on the most up-to-date inventory available. For those management units heavily impacted by the mountain pine beetle, conversions should optimally occur after a post-pine beetle inventory has been completed.

28. Identification of areas to meet existing commitments for First Nations woodland licences, other First Nations forest tenures, community forest agreements and woodlot licences should take place before or at least concurrently with any volume to area-based conversions.

29. Prior to the Minister inviting a proponent to apply for conversion it is recommended that the proponent provide demonstrated proof that there is strong local support (i.e. First Nations, local government/community, other licensees, other users of the land base etc.).

30. Prior to inviting a proponent to apply, the Minister should consider advertising his/her intention to initiate the process with the applicant and seek broad local public input on the proposed intent.

31. The government should be very clear about what social, economic and environmental objectives are mandatory and which ones are not. It is recommended that the mandatory list be included in either the enabling legislation or supporting regulation.

32. The applicant should conduct a 60-day public review and comment period which could include a public meeting.

33. To avoid the perception of "picking winners and losers" in any conversion process the Minister should consider establishing an ad hoc review/advisory panel for each conversion process. The panel would review all the pertinent information regarding the proponent's application, including engagement with First Nations and public input, and then make a recommendation to the Minister regarding approval with or without conditions. The panel could consist of an elected official of local government, a First Nations' representative and a representative of the local community. The Minister would retain the statutory decision-making authority but would take guidance from the panel.

34. To ensure any conversion process is carried out in an efficient and timely manner the Ministry should develop a detailed conversion policy including a business process flow chart along with expected timelines and defined responsibilities for each step of the conversion process. Key timelines for proponents and government should be defined in regulation.

35. Government should develop policy to ensure commitments made through a conversion opportunity are clear in terms of where they apply and how subdivisions, consolidations and other actions may affect those commitments.

 

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