Forest Practices Board gets 10 year report card

Reducing cost and complexity for industry while maintaining high environmental standards is working in most situations

The ten-year-old Forest and Range Practices Act, aimed at reducing cost and complexity for industry while maintaining high environmental standards, has been partly implemented and is working in most situations. However, some aspects of implementation are not complete or are not working as well as expected and improvement is needed, according to a Forest Practices Board report issued May 7.

“Now that 10 years have passed, we felt it was timely to inform the public about how well the act is working, based on our audits and investigations,” said board chair Tim Ryan. “We have published over 250 reports as part of our oversight of industry practices and government enforcement of this legislation. That body of work says a lot about what’s working well and where the issues are.”

“Our work shows that forest practices generally comply with the legislation, subject to the recent increase in non-compliances we have been finding in audits and investigations,” said Ryan. “But the determination of whether those practices achieve government’s objectives is still a work in progress.”

The report provides observations and ratings for the components of the legislative framework concluding that:

* Government objectives for forest and range values have not been fully established, and some are unclear.

* Forest stewardship plans required under FRPA have limited usefulness for either planning or the public engagement they are supposed to encourage.

* Some forest practice requirements are not clear.

* Government compliance and enforcement is not as thorough as it once was.

* Monitoring and evaluation of the effectiveness of practices could do more to encourage improvement to the regulations and operational performance.

The report also includes advice on what needs to be done to achieve the intent of the legislation and ensure B.C. has sound forest and range practices that warrant public confidence.

The Forest Practices Board is B.C.’s independent watchdog for sound forest and range practices, reporting its findings and recommendations directly to the public and government. The board investigates and reports on current forestry and range issues and makes recommendations for improvement to practices and legislation.

The concept of an independent oversight board was developed as part of the Forest Practices Code in the early 1990s. The code was created in response to public conflict and confrontation over forestry that culminated in the 1993 ‘War in the Woods’ at Clayoquot Sound. The board’s role was to provide assurance to the public, and to foreign markets, that industry would follow the strict new forestry legislation and that government would enforce it.

When the Forest and Range Practices Act replaced the Forest Practices Code in 2004, government recognized the board as an important component of forest management oversight in B.C., and continued its mandate in the new legislation.

The board consists of a full-time chair and five to eight part-time members, appointed by Cabinet. Members are appointed to provide a diverse range of backgrounds and experience in forestry-related matters and do not represent a particular stakeholder community. To ensure independence, the board provides reports to the Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations at the same time they are provided to the public and the minister does not approve the reports before they are published. The board also has its own separate budget.

The ombudsman and the auditor general of B.C. can investigate board activities and operations.

All board reports are available on the Internet at: www.fpb.gov.bc.ca