Columbia River Revelstoke MLA Norm Macdonald (NDP) spent much of the summer engaged in something of a rarity these days — a provincial government mandated committee that managed to operate in a bipartisan fashion.
Macdonald is the NDP Forestry critic and therefore the Special Committee on Timber Supply was of particular interest to him.
The Committee was struck by the BC Liberal government to address declining timber supply and issues of forest health within British Columbia’s interior with a focus on assisting the community of Burns Lake after a fire resulted in the loss of Babine Forest Products mill.
Although BC Liberals outnumbered NDP four to three on the committee, Macdonald felt that the recommendations offered real solutions to timber supply issues.
“It was a good process,” he said. “We went to a lot of communities and found there is tremendous expertise out there.
“We only got three of seven votes, but I felt very comfortable that the final document was indicative of what has gone on.”
“While the language was very mild, the conclusions mirror what we’ve been saying.”
The many recommendations focused on
• engaging local communities and First Nations in future plans;
• finding ways to grow more fibre and maximize its value, by utilizing marginally economic stands and/or investing in fertilization; and
• increasing the type and form of area-based tenures to support enhanced levels of forest stewardship and private sector forest investment.
“British Columbians understand the true value of our forests, not just for timber, but for all values. And British Columbians are not willing to accept forest practices that are not based in the principles of social, environmental and economic sustainability,” Macdonald said.
But bipartisanship or not, Macdonald says the report showcases failures of the current government around forestry.
“There’s been a lack of investment in inventory replenishment,” he said. “The resource has been allowed to degrade. That will complicate what is already a challenge.”
However, Macdonald says the recommendations do address problems of supply and stewardship of BC forests. The problem is, will the government act on them or simply shelve them?
“You can’t invest public funds and ask people to participate in a process and then not act,” he said. “It means the government has to change course.”
Macdonald says the budget already put out for the upcoming years continues to cut from forest health dollars, and that has to change.
“This report is a call to action. It was a good process, though by no means perfect. Now it has to be taken from a good consultative process to good public policy.”
The full recommendations of the timber supply committee report can be found at www.gov.bc.ca