Bill 12 – 2016, introduced March 10th, proposes legislative amendments that effect community forests in 2 key areas. The first involves amendments that enable the expansion of existing community forests. The second involves changes to support BC Timber Sales (BCTS), and follows up on recommendations coming from the Role & Effectiveness Review of BCTS conducted by John Allen in 2014. The BCCFA has clearly voiced concerns with these amendments. Under a confidentiality agreement BCCFA directors and staff have met with ministry staff on several occasions since the fall of 2014, and also with Minister Thomson to discuss the proposals.
Our opposition is based on the original principles of the community forest agreement: Community control of local forest resources for local benefit. Community forests were originally established so that communities could have control over the forest areas that were important to them. The fact that community forest agreements grant the exclusive right to harvest timber within a designated area is a cornerstone of the concept. The security of the exclusive rights granted through the long-term, area-based tenure is important to communities for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the ability to plan for and invest in the future economic, social and environmental benefits of the forest. Furthermore, the social licence that community forests have in their communities originates from the fact that the forest is managed by the community, for the community. The holder of a “reduced” CFA with timber auctioned by BCTS would no longer have the exclusive right to the timber in the licence area. The right would be shared with BCTS. As with Bill 25, we were successful in advocating that the proposed provision would not be applied to any community forest agreements already in place, even on replacement, unless it was the desire of the CFA holder. However, should an existing CFA wish to expand, the option to use this provision could be considered by government as a condition of approval of the expansion. As with the changes in Bill 25, Minister Thomson and BCTS staff have assured us that the new provision would only be applied in very rare circumstances, and that it will not be a standard condition of all new non-BCTS local people, local forests, local decisions Further, Minister Thomson committed to including the BCCFA closely in the development of the policies that relate to this provision.