Guest editorial

Work already done: new forest investment models unnecessary

By Bill Bourgeois

We need to capitalize on what we know.

One example is the continuous struggle to provide adequate and consistent investments in British Columbia forests.

In 1991, the Forest Resources [Royal] Commission – The future of our forests submitted a number of recommendations to the government. Although many were adopted, governments over 20 years failed to act on issues that remain priorities as identified through the Healthy Forests-Healthy Communities: A conversation on B.C. forests (HFHC) initiative.

These included: lack of “embracing the ethic of enhanced stewardship” through a forest vision; lack of adequate forest resources inventories; lack of adequate management of B.C. forests for all values; lack of legislative requirements for public participation in planning and management of forest land-based activities; and lack of stable, long-term funding for forest stewardship.

The last issue is fundamental to the future of B.C. forests and a major contributor to the current state of our forests.

To address this priority, the commission recommended creating a financial model sheltered from changes in political administrations and short-term budget cycles. The model was the establishment of a “Forest Resources Corporation” to manage B.C. forest lands with commercial potential and designated for integrated management.

Corporate management would be based on sound financial principles and include the primary objective of raising funds for long-term forest management. It would allow debt financing in cyclical downturns and provide financial contributions to the province only after fulfilling the long-term enhanced stewardship and financial stability needs.

Recently, Dr. Harry Nelson and Phil Grace from UBC, as part of the Healthy Forests-Healthy Communities (HFHC) initiative, saw the need for new investment models, such as utilizing public funding models, partnership models, business models and/or investment sources.

These and the commission recommendations are based on extensive knowledge and consultation. We need action on this issue now. We should do this through capitalizing on the available advice and knowledge.

Determining the most desirable approach to maintaining or enhancing the B.C. forest asset will take time and involve knowledgeable people within and associated with the forest sector. Establishing a new model over the next two to three years may be optimistic, but a process of stakeholder, communities and First Nations dialogue regarding moving in this direction is reasonable.

A few participants in the HFHC dialogue suggested a Royal Commission as an option to address the concerns over the future of B.C. forests. However, it is obvious another “Royal Commission” or commission of another form is not necessary.

We need to utilize the reports and recommendations available to us. We should not adopt another costly and time-consuming initiative.

Let’s capitalize on lessons learned from sources such as the 1991 commission, initiatives involving academics, other experts, the public and First Nations. It is time to commit to adopting lessons learned and utilize the available knowledge.

B.C. forests cannot accept another two decades with our heads in the sand.

Bill Bourgeois is professional forester with 38 years experience in B.C. forest policy and co-ordinator of the HFHC initiative.

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