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Privatizing Our Public Forests

Independent MLA Bob Simpson, January 31, 2013

Privatizing Our Public Forests
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Photo by TJ Watt

Although the timber supply does not exist to allow the Burns Lake sawmill to be rebuilt without negatively affecting other mills, communities, and jobs on Highway 16, the government has chosen to ignore this reality and appears intent on getting the Burns Lake mill rebuilt at any cost.

“Any cost” includes the commitment to introduce legislation this spring that will enable Cabinet to give Hampton Affiliates, an American company, exclusive rights over specific areas of our public forests in the Lakes Timber Supply Area in a manner that will open the door to the broad-scale privatization of our public forests.

In their dying days, the BC Liberals will introduce enabling legislation that will allow politicians to give forest companies exclusive rights over our public forests without the checks and balances of governing laws or regulations, or the guaranteed scrutiny of a transparent public process.

The Social Credit Party attempted a similar “rollover” of replaceable volume-based licenses to area-based tenures in 1988. The Socred Forests Minister of the day estimated their legislation would put over 60 percent of BC’s public forests under the exclusive control of private companies. The NDP Forest Critic at the time dubbed the legislation “privatization on a massive scale,” and it was squashed by significant public backlash.

Twenty-five years later, our forests are under assault by pests, disease, and fire. As the Auditor General pointed out, we have an appallingly weak forest inventory. And only a few large companies now hold replaceable volume-based timber licenses. Yet with the BC Liberal Party on the verge of losing the May election, they’re going to ram legislation through the BC Legislature that will do what Social Credit could not obtain the social licence to do in 1988.

As last summer’s Timber Supply Committee found out, the social licence still doesn’t exist to support the wholesale rollover of renewable forest licenses to area-based tenures. That’s why the Committee did not recommend this action. Instead, it gave some cautionary provisos to government for consideration “if conversion to more area-based tenures is desirable.”

I plan to oppose this legislation when it is introduced this spring. We’ll be posting more information this week to our website so you can learn more about the significant implications of this change to our public forest tenure system. Then, decide for yourself whether it ought to be supported or opposed.

Link to Bob Simpson's online article: http://www.bobsimpsonmla.ca/privatizing-our-public-forests/


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