Posted on January 13, 2010 (updated: January 13, 2010)

In the wake of new report, environmentalists condemn impact of BC forestry laws

A report released today by the BC government’s independent forestry watchdog, the Forest Practices Board, raises major concerns about BC’s forestry laws and the lack of information available to the public about logging plans throughout the province. In the wake of the report, environmental groups are calling on the BC government to halt approval of all logging plans until forest companies provide citizens with information on where and how they intend to log.

The environmental groups point to numerous deficiencies with the Forest and Range Practices Act referenced by the Board’s report:

  • The public is given no information about road building and logging locations in areas that average over 300,000 hectares in size (sometimes as large as 800,000 hectares);
  • Forestry laws are vague and do not require logging companies to make enforceable commitments about how they will log;
  • The legal requirement to consult with the public about logging plans is meaningless because companies do not provide relevant information about prospective logging;
  • The Ministry of Forests has no discretion to refuse logging plans that meet only minimal requirements; and,
  • Environmental protection measures can be ignored if they unduly impact logging.

“When you give industry the power to write the laws, this is what you get,” said Sierra Legal staff lawyer Devon Page. “You get vague and unenforceable laws that jeopardize the public interest.”

“We think the international community will be quite interested to learn that BC’s forestry laws amount to a rubber stamp for secret plans,” said ForestEthics Program Director, Merran Smith.

Unlike BC’s previous laws which set out how forestry should be practised and made logging companies give the public information on where and how they would log, the new laws only require companies to commit to vague requirements, without detailing how they intend to do so. As the board’s report discusses, this makes them difficult for the average person to understand and particularly unsuitable for public review and comment.

“What will happen to our trails or our endangered species habitat? These plans don’t tell us,” said Joe Foy of Western Canada Wilderness Committee. “I think it makes more sense for forest companies to talk to the public at the planning stage rather than at a blockade.”

“Our members are extremely concerned that the new logging plans are difficult for the layperson to understand and provide no relevant details,” said Rob Duncan, Forestry Specialist at the Sierra Club of Canada, BC Chapter.

The groups are calling for a halt to logging plan approval until the government addresses concerns outlined in the Forest Practices Board’s report.

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