Majority of public comments reject BC forest privatization scheme

Image from Wilderness Committee.

Image from Wilderness Committee.

Victoria – The BC Ministry of Forests recently closed its area-based forest tenure consultation process. The conversion of volume-based forest tenures to area-based tenures (or TFLs) in BC has been championed by the provincial government, despite fierce public opposition.

The Ministry received thousands of letters of comment, and has posted most of these submissions online. Of the approximately 4,225 published submissions, 4,185 reject the government’s plan to convert volume-based tenures to TFLs. Approximately 25 comments are neutral, and only about 15 are clearly supportive of the government’s vision.

“The BC government has been completely out of step with the public on forest issues for years, and this engagement process proves that fact beyond a doubt,” said Torrance Coste, Vancouver Island Campaigner with the Wilderness Committee. “Now it’s time for the Minister of Forests to listen to the people and drop this unwanted plan for good.”

Area-based tenures give private corporations more control over public forests, which leads to poorer environmental management, less local economic benefits, and less benefits and access to resources for First Nations. Unsustainable logging practices, raw log exports and mill closures are all more common in TFLs than in volume-based tenures.

The government’s push to create more TFLs has been strongly opposed by conservation groups, forest policy experts, First Nations, unions, citizens across the province, and even some logging company executives. The comments clearly demonstrate that British Columbians believe logging corporations should have less control over BC’s public forests, not more.

The Minister of Forests attempted to rush similar changes through the Legislature in February 2013, with Bill 8, but the public backlash forced the government to pull that bill off the table. One of the main criticisms was the lack of public input on the bill.

“Maybe the Minister tried to skip the consultation last time because he knew what the response would be if the public was allowed to comment on TFL expansion,” Coste said. “Now the public has spoken loud and clear: more TFLs are not the answer for BC’s forests.”