Opinion-Editorial from British Columbia’s Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations
Ensuring a sustainable timber supply, with the right mix of tree species, is a top priority for the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations.
British Columbia is world-renowned for its sustainable forest management. More than 53 million hectares of land are certified to one of three independent and internationally recognized sustainable forest management standards. That’s more certified land than any other jurisdiction in the world apart from Canada as a whole.
B.C.’s forests are managed sustainably so future generations can also enjoy the benefits from our forests. B.C. has 55 million hectares of productive forests, but of that only 22 million hectares is considerable suitable for commercial forestry. About 155,000 hectares – less than one per cent – is harvested each year.
The current mountain pine beetle epidemic is unprecedented and has now affected over 18.1 million hectares of B.C.’s Interior forests. Since 2001, this government has committed $884 million to the battle the beetle and its economic, social and environmental impacts. This includes funding three regional beetle action coalitions to help them diversify their regional economies.
Equally important over the last 11 years has been this government’s commitment to forest health and reforestation. Aerial forest health overview surveys are done each year to help inform treatments for a variety of forest health pests.
In 2002, legislative changes made it more effective for government to reforest the areas it is responsible. Since 1986, forest companies have been legally required to reforest the areas they harvest and government looks after the rest.
With the advent of the mountain pine beetle infestation, government created the Forests for Tomorrow program specifically to reforest areas impacted by the mountain pine beetle and wildfire that would otherwise remain unharvested. Since 2005, more than $236 million has been invested to survey over one million hectares and plant more than 60 million seedlings over 50,000 hectares.
A recent Forest Practices Board report has reaffirmed the importance of reforesting “not satisfactorily restocked” lands. The current estimate of lands that may need reforesting is about two million hectares.
Ministry staff are surveying those areas and doing a detailed cost-benefit analysis. Some areas may be left for wood bioenergy producers to harvest and reforest, allowing government funds to be focused on other areas.
This government has also been investing in forest inventory, despite the challenges in today’s economic climate. As part of being fiscally responsible, inventory efforts are being focused on areas where knowledge is lacking or conditions are changing quickly because of the mountain pine beetle infestation. The ministry is also increasingly taking advantage of innovative and cost-effective tools (such as satellite imagery) to help ensure a reliable forest inventory.
This government recognizes the economic importance of B.C.’s forests to rural communities and is committed to sustainable forest management to ensure that British Columbians can continue to enjoy the economic and environmental benefits of our forests.