WCWC fears Working Forest Legislation 

Ministry spokesperson admits legislation misunderstood

The Ministry of Sustainable Resource Management knows that it is in a hole when it comes to promoting their concept for a Working Forest in B.C.

In their call for public input, the MSRM received more than 3,000 e-mails, and all but a handful were opposed to the idea.

The problem isn’t the concept, says Bruce Sieffert, the provincial coordinator for the Working Forest Initiative, but the public’s understanding of what the initiative does and does not do.

For Ken Wu of the Western Canada Wilderness Committee, the initiative represents "the most anti-environmental legislation" in the history of the province. His organization believes that it is the first step in a process that could lead to the privatization, actual or de facto, of B.C.’s publicly held resources.

Both Wu and Sieffert were in Whistler last Thursday, July 3, to present their take on the Working Forest Initiative at AWARE’s monthly meeting.

The Working Forest would represent almost half of the landmass of B.C., covering some 45 million hectares of Crown land.

Sieffert says that part of the problem in winning public acceptance for the concept lies in the term "Working Forest Initiative" because it gives people the impression that the initiative is purely in the interests of the forestry industry. The working forest also applies to tourism, recreation, and other economic activities taking place in B.C.’s forest, he says. "It’s an initiative that has to address the needs and interests of loggers, but it also has to address the needs and efforts of other values (in the forest)," said Sieffert.

Ultimately, the province may have to come up with another name for the initiative, he said.

Sieffert also believes that the WFI is a relatively minor program, compared to other provincial changes to forestry.

The other changes include the Forest Range and Practices Act, which will replace the Forest Practices Code; the Forestry Redistrubution Plan, which will "claw" back 20 per cent of harvesting tenures and redistribute them to small companies and First Nations; legislation that allows companies more freedom to move logs around the province to milling operations; and a plan to move the industry towards market based pricing – mostly to convince Americans to lift crippling economic sanctions on softwood exports from Canada.

"I see the WFI as a relatively minor piece of the puzzle, in my opinion," said Sieffert.

In its simplest terms, Sieffert views the WFI as a matter of process. The forestry industry has conceded a lot of land in the last ten years as the total area protected as park land in B.C. has doubled from around six per cent to more than 12 per cent. Development, including real estate, agriculture, and cattle ranching has also chipped away at their land tenure.

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