A community economic development survey is giving City of Powell River council a venue to raise concerns on timber harvest within its municipal boundaries.
The Union of BC Municipalities survey asks local governments to comment on the impact forestry decisions have had on communities and about the level of communication and public consultation from forest tenure holders on operational plans. Once compiled, the survey’s results will be presented to Steve Thompson, minister of forests, lands and natural resource operations.
“I thought it was timely,” said councillor Russell Brewer, who also works for the provincial government as a professional forester, at council’s Thursday, January 7 regular meeting. “We’ve wanted to get an audience with the minister to talk about private-managed forest land. I thought this would be a great opportunity to communicate our concerns.”
Last spring, council came under public pressure to intervene in Island Timberland’s operations on its private, managed forest land tenure within Lot 450. However, section 21 of the BC Private Managed Forest Land Act (PMFL) bars local governments from adopting bylaws or developing permits to restrict PMFL harvests.
Brewer completed the survey and then brought it forward to council, which then approved it to be sent on behalf of the city at its January meeting.
“It’s just excellent,” said councillor Maggie Hathaway. “It really addresses our concerns and puts our position out there.”
The survey asks about the experiences local governments have had with public and private forest tenure holders. Brewer said he highlighted that the city has an excellent relationship with Crown tenure holders, including Powell River Community Forest and Western Forest Products Inc., though he said it would be helpful to have annual public consultation on longterm development.
“They go beyond the minimum legislative requirements by posting plans,” said Brewer, adding however that “consultation on the part of the private holders is not adequate and does not meet the expectations of the local government or the community.”
Brewer said council’s submission calls for improvements to make public and private tenure holders more accountable to local governments, clarify the information companies provide in forest stewardship plans and indicate what is required for community consultation.
“Section 21 of the [PMFL] Act is an unacceptable restriction on the authority of local government,” Brewer stated in the survey. “Residents of municipalities reasonably expect their local government should be able to regulate activities on PMFL. This is particularly reasonable given the reduced taxation benefits.”
In addition to amending the act, council would also like to see annual consultation with PMFL tenure holders, where they are required to share operations and development maps.