B.C.'s efforts not enough to halt forestry declines
B.C. auditor general John Doyle said in a report released Thursday that the province is ill-prepared to manage the province's beetle-ravaged forests, which are heading toward a long-term decline in both value and diversity.
"We are already facing the fact that the value of the forest is going to be diminished as we go forward and future generations are not going to have what we had," Doyle said in an interview on the report.
The report notes the provincial ministry of forests, lands and natural resource operations is responsible for 22 million hectares of forestland with an estimated value of a quarter-trillion dollars, but it has no clear objectives on how to manage it.
Of those 22 million hectares, Doyle identifies 1.1 million hectares in need of reforestation.
Current replanting programs have averaged only 8,730 hectares a year over the last five years.
"The little bit that is being done is good; there's nothing wrong with that. But how much more is required to actually bring the forests to an appropriate place?" he said.
"You've got to catch up somewhere."
Factors in the decline in the forests are the mountain pine beetle, fire and a tendency by forest companies to replant mostly lodgepole pine in cutblocks that were once mixed forests.
The report comes to three significant conclusions.
"Without clearly defining its timber objectives, the ministry cannot ensure that its management practices are effective," the report states.
Further, what management practices are in place are insufficient to offset the trend to lower timber supply and less diversity in some areas.
And finally, the report states there is insufficient monitoring of timber results to see if they meet timber objectives.
The report's recommendations include development of a stewardship plan with clearly defined objectives, a reforestation program that is sufficient to meet those objectives and the implementation of performance measure to demonstrate progress.
Steve Thomson, minister of forests, lands and natural resource operations, said he appreciates the work done by Doyle but disagrees with most of his findings.
He said the ministry has clear objectives set out in the Forest and Range Practices Act.
"Overall, [the report] identified the need to do inventory work. And we accept the recommendation that we need to provide the transparency, the reporting-out on it.
"And he has identified the important issue around making sure we recognize the importance of reforestation issues," he said.
"We don't necessarily agree with some of his conclusions in terms of estimates and numbers. We are confident that we have programs in place that meet our objectives."
Thomson said inventory work is underway and within six months the ministry should have more accurate numbers on the amount of reforestation required.
He said the province does face challenges in providing a midterm timber supply to industry while the beetle-killed forests recover. The ministry is working with industry to see what options are available. One option, identified by industry, is a re-examination of forests that were set aside from harvesting in landuse plans adopted over the last 15 years. Thompson said he would not prejudge any options being brought forward.