The provincial government says it is committed to most recommendations on improving wildlife habitat affected by heightened logging activity associated with mountain pine beetle devastation.
Forests, Lands and Natural Resources Operations Minister Steve Thomson has committed to reviewing and acting on the advice and a majority of recommendations contained in the report, Getting the Balance Right: Improving Wildlife Habitat Management in British Columbia.
In the aftermath of the mountain pine beetle epidemic, Thomson asked Parliamentary Secretary Mike Morris, a lifelong trapper, to examine the impact of the epidemic and the associated increase in timber harvesting on wildlife habitat in the Interior.
“The mountain pine beetle infestation and associated logging has had an impact on wildlife habitat in B.C.’s interior, and we are committed to restoring that habitat,” Thomson said. “At the same time we need to balance the needs of communities and workers that rely on the forest industry for their economic well-being.”
Morris met with 24 organizations over a six-month period, and provided advice and 18 recommendations in five broad areas:
- Implement a new wildlife management program.
- Consolidate authorization planning in resource development.
- Develop a landscape-level planning model (planning across areas that are ecologically similar in a defined geographic area).
- Improve and expand results-based management.
- Increase the involvement of wildlife practitioners.
The ongoing development of the cumulative effects assessment framework is ensuring that impacts of resource development over a given geographic area – instead of a sector-by-sector basis – are managed in an environmentally sustainable way.
A new Forest Enhancement Program under development will also contain a component to restore wildlife habitat and Morris’ advice will help shape that program component.
The ministry’s new integrated silviculture strategies are “landscape-level” plans that manage forest harvesting, reforestation, wildlife habitat and ecosystem needs. Acting on recommendations from other reports, the ministry is improving its guidance and training packages to ensure results and strategies required in forest licensees’ forest stewardship plans are more easily verified. The ministry is also enhancing its Forest and Range Evaluation Program and developing and implementing wildlife monitoring protocols.
The ministry is also exploring options for the increased use of citizen science, including the launch of a smart phone app to help inventory moose populations.