A recent special investigation of the B.C. Forest Stewardship Plans (FSPs) process, by the Forest Practices Board, has concluded that in the majority of examples it reviewed, the forest industry is not meeting the goals and objectives that the plans were intended to uphold.
Under the Forest and Range Practices Act (FRPA) most licensees harvesting Crown timber in B.C. are required to prepare FSPs, and these documents are the only formal agreement by which the government can hold the industry accountable. The plans must address three major criteria. The first of these three is that the plans must describe how they will be innovative in their results, strategies and measures. The second must detail how the licensee will contribute to effectiveness in compliance and enforcement actions, and the third criterion refers to proactively consulting the public.
The purpose of this special investigation was to determine if the FSPs are meeting the expectations that government set out for them. The Board selected 43 out of 290 FSPs active in B.C. and interviewed individuals that have been involved with preparing, reviewing and implementing them. The examination compared the prescribed requirements against the actual results and whether they were consistent with the government’s objectives. Furthermore, 11 of the 43 FSPs received a review of all their amendments, to assess improvements over time.
Some shortcomings in the process drew attention to the fact that FSPs are often very large, with overlapping areas, involving multiple licensees. The report goes on to note that planned cutblocks and roads are often omitted from the documentation and that there is a lack of clarity, resulting from the use of complex terminology, with poor correlation to operations on the ground. Finally, the report highlights that there are few opportunities for public input. Consequently, results, strategies and measures are difficult to verify and are often inconsistent with the government’s objectives.
The Board determined that, despite all 43 sampled FSPs having received governmental approval, each had more than one result, strategy or measure that was not verifiable, and many results or strategies did not demonstrate consistency with the government’s goals and objectives.
The Board arrived at several conclusions, and first among them was that FSPs alone are inadequate tools to assure public review and comment, and that the time frame between opportunities for public review and comments is excessive. They also found that measures designed to prevent the introduction and spread of invasive species were both impractical and ineffective in this context. Finally, the Board concluded that FSPs are not improving over time. Amendments to FSPs are primarily administrative in nature and don’t improve results, strategies or measures. Unfortunately, newer FSPs do not have better results than older ones.
The Board recommended that the Government should not approve FSPs or extensions that don’t meet the requirements set out in the FRPA, the government should improve the process for public consultation, and the Association of BC Forest Professionals should ensure that its members abide by their responsibilities surrounding FSPs.
- Source "Forest Practices Board. August 2015. Forest Stewardship Plans: Are They Meeting Expectations? Special Investigation. FPB/SIR/44. Available at : https://www.bcfpb.ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/SIR44-FSP-Are-They-Meeting-Expectations.pdf [Accessed 03/2021]. "