Who is holding BC Timber Sales accountable?

Who is holding BC Timber Sales accountable?


Mr. Speaker: Member, Saanich North and the Islands. A. Olsen: The British Columbia forestry industry
has been collapsing for decades because successive governments have been overharvesting trees.
People in remote, rural and urban British Columbia are voicing their concern. People
within government are expressing their dismay. British Columbians are concerned that the
changes made by the previous government in handing over the public interest to foreign
interests are hurting them. This government continues to rapaciously log old-growth ecosystems
on Vancouver Island, and it appears that they’re doing so in a way that doesn’t even comply
with their own rules. Let’s look at the Nahmint valley in Port Alberni.
Earlier this year, the photos of majestic tree stumps went viral. The vast clearcuts
were once rich habitat, home to endangered species. Two separate investigations appear
to have found that B.C. Timber Sales are auctioning off cutblocks that are violating their own
rules. The compliance and enforcement officer from the Forests Ministry, in one investigation,
recommended that the logging of the valley be halted and that the future harvesting be
put on hold. Yet the logging of this pristine valley continues, with no end in sight. My question is to the Minister of Forests.
Why is the government ignoring the recommendation of this investigation, continuing to log irreplaceable
old-growth ecosystems in the Nahmint valley? Mr. Speaker: Minister of Forest, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development. Hon. D. Donaldson: Well, I thank the member
for his thoughtful question. We, as the government, understand the importance of old-growth forests
to supporting biodiversity in the forest ecosystems. We are blessed in B.C. to still have options
on the management of old growth. He refers to the Nahmint valley, and it was
designated a special management zone in 2000 under the Vancouver Island Land Use Plan.
The values that underline this special management zone include wildlife, biodiversity and recreation.
And staff in my ministry are currently working as part of a working group that includes First
Nations and staff from B.C. Timber Sales to legalize old-growth management areas, OGMAs,
in the Nahmint valley. This involves using new and up-to-date information and incorporating
other important values, including legacy trees and large cultural trees to provide additional
protection. We take the member’s concerns seriously. We
are not ignoring this issue or this topic. From what I understand, B.C.’s independent
watchdog, the Forest Practices Board is investigating the Ancient Forest Alliance’s complaint, and
the Forest Practices Board investigation will be made public. Mr. Speaker: The Member for Saanich North
and the Islands on a supplemental. A. Olsen: Indeed, we do have options until,
of course, we log all the old growth, and then those options are gone. I thank the minister
for the response. I think the problem is that B.C. Timber Sales
and the ministry’s enforcement officers are too closely entwined. They work side by side.
They report to the same people. So it appears to the public, whose interest we are in this
place to protect and who B.C. Timber Sales works on behalf of, that we have serious compliance
and enforcement issues. It appears we have a serious conflict of interest
in the administration of the public interest. This is highlighted by the fact that the compliance
officer responsible for the investigation that I mentioned earlier says that he was
told that at one point to “close down the investigation, not write a report and just
send an internal memo.” That is a worrying statement. B.C. Timber Sales appears to be
ignoring the internal government recommendations, violating the Vancouver Island Land Use Plan,
and they may have been allowing overcutting of old growth for the past 18 years. My question is to the Minister of Forests.
There is a growing lack of certainty whose interest B.C. Timber Sales is representing.
Who is holding B.C. Timber Sales accountable for their actions? Mr. Speaker: Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development. Hon. D. Donaldson: Well, the B.C. Timber Sales
is held to the same standard as private companies, and they’re accountable to the public. They
submit forest stewardship plans. Those forest stewardship plans now, under our new legislation
that we passed in May — under the Forest and Range Practices Act — are much more
transparent than they were before. It allows a forest operations map to be made public,
and transparency is there for people to be able to see where cutblocks and roads, for
instance, are planned. The compliance and enforcement branch has
the authority to investigate B.C. Timber Sales. They are a compliance branch, so they monitor
and ensure compliance with the certain natural resource legislation, including compliance
with forest stewardship plans. When necessary and appropriate, they take enforcement actions,
and that’s the oversight with the BCTS, the same as it would be for any forest licensee. However, we understand that there are people
who are interested and concerned about harvesting practices on a timber-harvesting land base.
That’s why we introduced a legacy tree policy in June, where there’s the ability to register
large trees, and each of these trees is protected by a one-hectare buffer. That’s 100 metres
by 100 metres. We’ve also convened an old-growth strategic
review panel, consisting of Garry Merkel and Al Gorley, who will be travelling the province
to gather information and report back to me in the new year for recommendations around
old-growth strategic policy.