Open Collections

UBC Graduate Research

Government regulation of forestry in British Columbia Plowright, Andrew 2014-11-28

Your browser doesn't seem to have a PDF viewer, please download the PDF to view this item.

Notice for Google Chrome users:
If you are having trouble viewing or searching the PDF with Google Chrome, please download it here instead.

Item Metadata


42591-Plowright_Andrew_FRST_547_Government_Regulation_Forestry.pdf [ 1.49MB ]
JSON: 42591-1.0075831.json
JSON-LD: 42591-1.0075831-ld.json
RDF/XML (Pretty): 42591-1.0075831-rdf.xml
RDF/JSON: 42591-1.0075831-rdf.json
Turtle: 42591-1.0075831-turtle.txt
N-Triples: 42591-1.0075831-rdf-ntriples.txt
Original Record: 42591-1.0075831-source.json
Full Text

Full Text

   GOVERNMENT REGULATION OF FORESTRY  IN BRITISH COLUMBIA by Andrew Plowright  Presented for the course FRST 547: Forestry in British Columbia Faculty of Forestry, University of British Columbia   2  Government Regulation of Forestry in British Columbia Andrew Plowright Introduction Forest resource management in British Columbia involves a unique and complex set of participants, determinants and dynamics. Not only does BC possess vast tracts of forests, but the majority of this land belongs to the public (Province of British Columbia, 2010). While forestry has been a mainstay of BC’s economy for more than a hundred years and remains the main driver in many regional economies, timber harvesting has found itself at odds with some of the other forest values the public wishes to preserve. The public’s expectations towards forests in BC have evolved over time, and now include a mix of environmental, sociological, aesthetic and economic values (Drushka, 1993).  While private industry and non-government organizations are significant players, the responsibility for managing BC’s forests and balancing these competing values rests mainly with the provincial government. In this essay, I will present a comprehensive review of the government organizations that overview forest management in British Columbia, the legal acts that govern forests, and the mechanisms by which management policies are established and updated. Furthermore, I will cite some well publicized cases that demonstrate the implications of the province’s forest management policies, and compare BC’s governance with that of other developed countries.  Public land in British Columbia Public land in Canada is often called “crown land”, in reference to Canada’s Monarchy. In parallel to the country’s dual provincial and federal tiers of governments, this land is further divided between the provincial Crown and the federal Crown. While 89% of Canada’s land belongs to the Crown (Neimanis, 2011), this distribution is not equal amongst provinces, with maritime provinces such as New Brunswick and Nova Scotia having more than half of their land held by private interests (Mitchell, 2003). British Columbia is on the other end of this spectrum: 94% of the province’s land is provincial Crown Land. The federal government is responsible for only 1% of BC’s land base, mostly in the form of Indian reserves (Figure 1; Province of British Columbia, 2010). Thus, the onus of planning and managing BC’S vast forest reserves falls mainly on the provincial government.   Figure 1. Land ownership in British Columbia. (Province of British Columbia, 2010)  Forestry legislation Timber has been harvested in British Columbia by First Nations people for thousands of years. The first European settlers immediately recognized the region’s vast natural wealth: the coast’s immense trees were logged both for domestic use and exported as a trading good. By the 19th century, many local governments had begun levying taxes on loggers, but it was not until 20th century that province-wide legislation was put into place to regulate forestry. The Forest Act was ratified in 1912, and focused on determining the rate of logging, granting tenure to Crown land, dividing the province into administrative regions and regulating harvesting operations. The act also  3  Government Regulation of Forestry in British Columbia Andrew Plowright established stumpage fees, i.e.: the amount paid by loggers to the government for the right to harvest trees on public land (Marchak, 1983).  Additional statutes include the Forest Practices Code of British Columbia Act, which established the Forest Practices Code, regulates planning, road building, logging and reforestation within tenured land, and enables public involvement in the establishment of forest management objectives. The Ministry of Forests Act, as the name suggests, created BC’s Ministry of Forests, in charge of administering forests and implementing management policies (Sahajananthan, Haley, & Nelson, 1998). Many other smaller acts provide legal framework around issues that impact forestry, such as wildfire, hunting and fishing, conservation, surveying and wildlife protection. History of public participation and conflict In the late 20th century, when many of BC’s policies towards timber harvesting were being reformed, a poll revealed that 63% of Canadians believed that environmental concerns should be paramount in decisions relating to forestry (M’Gonigle, Gunton, Fletcher, Murdoch, & MacKnight, 1992). This contrasted with the government’s previous approach, which prioritized economic interests. The incongruity of these two competing values, along with public frustration over the lack of opportunity to participate in decision-making, manifested itself through protests against logging operations and civil disobedience.  Clayoquot Sound In 1993, public frustration boiled over in Clayoquot Sound, on Vancouver Island. Members of the public, drawn mostly from environmental organizations and First Nations groups, mobilized to block logging roads to the area to prevent MacMillan Bloedel’s plans to clear-cut a large portion of the island’s old growth temperate rainforest. Other parties dissatisfied with the government’s opaque decision-making process included small forestry companies, forestry worker unions and the tourism industry (Walter, 2007). The conflict was long and drawn-out and eventually resulted in mass arrests and the largest act of civil disobedience in Canadian history at the time (Figure 2). In response to public pressure, the government forestalled logging in the region, reduced the AAC and the maximum size of clear-cuts, and began the process of shifting its Figure 2. Mass arrests during Clayoquot Sound protests (Nursall, 2013)   4  Government Regulation of Forestry in British Columbia Andrew Plowright policy from a single- to a multiple-use approach to managing forests (Wilson, 1999).  The Great Bear Rainforest The effects of the government’s change in policy manifested themselves in a subsequent clash between environmentalists and logging companies. In the late 1990s, environmental advocacy groups began taking an interest in BC’s central coast, which held the largest tract of continuous old growth temperate rainforest in the world. Dubbed the “Great Bear Rainforest”, this area became the focus of a massive international anti-logging campaign, as environmental groups sought to draw the public’s attention to the coast’s unique ecological values (Armstrong, 2009).  While negotiations between loggers, government representatives, environmental groups and First Nations were antagonistic at first, progress was made once forestry companies conceded to halt extraction in the region during the negotiation process. In 2001, a five-part framework from which any future land-use policies would be built was agreed upon. These five parts included a moratorium on logging during talks, referral to an independent scientific authority, ecosystem-based management of exploitation zones, commitment to a diversified and sustainable local economy, and a government-to-government agreement that would serve as a protocol for reconciliation between First Nation and provincial government land use planning (McGee, Cullen, & Gunton, 2010). Gordon Campbell’s newly elected government pledged to follow this framework and to complete land-use planning for the region within 18 months (Armstrong, 2009).  Another outcome of this negotiation process was the creation of the Ecosystem-Based Management Handbook, a comprehensive set of recommendations that informed future land use decisions for the Great Bear Rainforest. Featuring a consistent approach to land management on regional, landscape, watershed and site levels, and taking particular care to include assessments of environmental and socio-economic wellbeing in the area, the handbook later became part of British Columbia’s standard strategic land use planning model (Smith & Sterritt, 2007). Modern regulatory mechanisms Today, the Ministry of Forests (or as it is now called, the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations), is the government body accountable for forest resources management in the province. The ministry has a wide range of responsibilities, which include granting land tenure to logging companies, managing fish and wildlife habitat, selling timber, overseeing trails and recreational facilities, controlling forest fires and promoting BC forestry products abroad. Of critical importance to the forestry industry, the ministry is responsible for establishing long-term strategic goals with regard to forest management. These policies, in turn, influence the annual allowable cut, which is set by BC’s chief forester (Blinkley, Percy, Thompson, & Vertinsky, 1994).  Annual Allowable Cut The annual allowable cut (AAC) is determined for each of the province’s 37 timber supply areas, as well as its 34 tree farm licenses. This quota limits the volume and area of forested land that can be harvested within each region (Province of British Columbia, 2002). Establishing the annual allowable cut is a complex process that takes a variety of environmental, economic and social factors into account (Figure 3). For example, the fluctuating demand for certain types of timber can raise the AAC in some regions while diminishing it in others. The mountain pine beetle outbreak  5  Government Regulation of Forestry in British Columbia Andrew Plowright caused a brief raise in the AAC, as forestry companies were encouraged to salvage infested timber before it rotted or burned. Long-term factors include concern for sustainability and conservation of habitat and riparian buffers (Patriquin, Wellstead, & White, 2007).   Figure 3. Determining the annual allowable cut. (Province of British Columbia, 2002) Timber Supply Review Program Much of the guiding framework for setting the AAC comes from the Ministry of Forests’ Timber Supply Review program. As part of this program, a 20-month long analysis of a given area’s timber supply is performed. This analysis not only seeks to assess the quantity of harvestable timber within an area, but also evaluate how current forest practices might influence that supply in the future. It should be noted that the term “timber supply” refers to the quantity of merchantable timber that can be extracted from the forest, and thus is different than a “forest inventory”, which includes all standing trees. Furthermore, information on public expectations of forest management in the area is collected, and the social implications of the current AAC are examined. The economic viability of the timber supply is also taken into account, as the economic impact of a change in the AAC can be substantial to lease-holders. In the past, timber supply reviews have led to dramatic reductions in AACs in regions such as Nelson, Kamloops and Prince George (Province of British Columbia, 2002).  Implications of British Columbia’s regulation of forestry Because of its central role in the management of forest resources, the policies and regulations adopted by the Ministry of Forests have broad and far-reaching impacts. The regulation of timber harvesting has a direct effect on the economic viability of the forestry sector, and while significant steps have been taken to accommodate non-timber values in BC’s forests, provincial forest policies still draw heavy criticism from environmental groups and First Nations bands. Economic The concept of sustained yield still underpins all provincial timber harvesting regulations. While this may affect the short-term profitability of leaseholders (Mathey, Nelson, & Gaston, 2009), by ensuring an even flow of timber, the government supports the stability of resource-dependent communities (Haley & Luckert, 1996). Regardless, limiting harvest levels through the AAC has been criticized from an economics perspective. Tenure holders that do not utilize the AAC fully may have their harvest level reduced, which provides an incentive for firms to carry out uneconomic logging (Mathey et al., 2009).  Reductions of the AAC, on the other hand, have been shown to drastically affect employment and reduce the GDP of regional communities (Blinkley et al., 1994). The fluctuation in AAC contributes to feelings of insecurity on behalf of tenure holders, which can lead to misallocations of investment capital (Luckert, 1991). Other regulations, such as the prescriptions laid out in the Forest Practices Code, have reduced the number of adverse environmental impacts of  6  Government Regulation of Forestry in British Columbia Andrew Plowright forestry, but have also substantially increased the costs of forestry operations (Innes, 2003).  Environmental Through the Forest Practices Code of 1994, the Ministry of Forests attempted to address many of the environmental issues related to timber harvesting. This included making provisions for preserving landscape connectivity when planning cutting blocks, retaining stand structure by leaving wildlife tree patches, limiting the felling of old growth stands, protecting wetlands and establishing riparian buffer zones (Fenger, 1996). These regulations were complemented by the Forest and Range Practices Act, which was enacted as a result of the province’s commitment to sustainable forest management. Under this act, forest companies are held accountable for their capacity to meet sustainability benchmarks, each of which is an indicator of a series of environmental values (Hickey & Innes, 2008).  While this legislation has successfully addressed the environmental impacts of certain harvesting practices, some of the government’s forest policies remain the object of contention. The province’s proposal to convert volume-based forest tenures to area-based tenures, for example, has been criticized for promoting unsustainable rates of logging while failing to provide sufficient protection for species habitat (Langer, 2014). Other criticisms include the forestry’s considerable contribution to the province’s greenhouse gas emissions (between 30% and 50%) (Province of British Columbia, 2012) and the continued loss of valuable wildlife habitat (Gustavson, Lonergan, & Ruitenbeek, 1999).  Social The adoption of a collaborative land-use planning model by the British Columbian government after the Clayoquot Sound protests has been credited for promoting agreement among forest stakeholders and reducing the frequency of antagonistic conflicts over forest resources (Frame, Gunton, & Day, 2004). The consensus achieved during the negotiations of the Great Bear Rainforest is seen as an example of the benefits to be drawn from this collaborative approach (McGee et al., 2010). By insuring public participation and promoting dialogue between stakeholders, this policy can better integrate disparate values during land use planning processes. For a public planning process to be successful, it requires adequate representation by all concerned stakeholders. In this context, the government’s inability to engage with First Nations groups can put the legitimacy of certain land use planning processes into question  (Mascarenhas & Scarce, 2004). While the provincial government committed itself to increasing First Nations governance within the Great Bear Rainforest, little evidence of such a shift has been found (Howlett, Rayner, & Tollefson, 2009). Comparisons with governance of forests abroad Australia As another part of the former British Empire, Australia’s system of tenured Crown land is similar to that of British Columbia. Private interests may hold leases on forested Crown land, which, due to the poor productivity of Australian forests, is generally used for grazing instead of forestry. Nature reserves (18%) make up a significant portion of Australia’s native forests. Australia’s portion of privately-owned forest (27%) is five times greater than in British Columbia (5%), while over a third of its forested land is part of Indigenous estate, and is this subject to Indigenous management (Government of Australia, 2013). Australia has also pursued a policy of corporatizing its state forest agencies since the early 1990s, which has  7  Government Regulation of Forestry in British Columbia Andrew Plowright been found to increase performance through gains in operational efficiency (Nelson & Nikolakis, 2012). Sweden Differences between Australia and British Columbia are small when compared to Scandinavian countries, which have governed forestry practices for centuries. Sweden was the first country to enact forest conservation laws in 1886, which stipulated that felled trees were to be replanted, while a comprehensive Forestry Act was decreed three decades later to regulate forestry practices in general (Landsberg & Waring, 2014). While a period of extensive clear cutting took place in the 1960s and 1970s, today, forest management in Sweden is focused on a broad range of goals, including sustainability and protection for biodiversity.  Roughly half of Swedish forested land is owned by nonindustrial private individuals (Lindestav, 1998), and as such, forest resource management differs significantly from the standards found in British Columbia. Forest owner associations are an important influence in the national wood market, as they represent 44% of these small-scale owners (Lindroos, Lidestav, & Nordfjell, 2005). A key difference between government management of forests in British Columbia and Sweden is that Swedish legislation must account for this high rate of private ownership. While government control of private lands in most of North America is relatively restrained, private forest landowners in Scandinavia must adhere to the same types of regulations that would only be applicable to Crown land leaseholders in British Columbia.  Figure 4. Comparison between total land area (brown) and forested land area (green) for Canada (including British Columbia), United States, Australia, British Columbia and Sweden. (Food and Agriculture Organization, 2010) United States A similar pattern of ownership also exists in the United States, where 72% of productive forested land is owned by private individuals or forestry companies (Darr & Boulter, 1991). Interestingly, the majority of this productive land is found in the broadleaf forests of Eastern United States. Public forests, on the other hand, are found mainly in the country’s Western regions. Most public forests in the country fall under the purview of the Federal government, as opposed to lower-level governing bodies such as provinces in Canada. These forests are managed by the United States Forest Service, an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It should be noted that while the U.S. Forest Service is responsible for forests across the country  8  Government Regulation of Forestry in British Columbia Andrew Plowright (780,000 km2), in total, it only manages 44% more land that British Columbia (550,000 km2) (U.S. Government Accountability Office, 2009). Its activities include law enforcement, research, and extracting timber. The primary statute governing national forests is the National Forest Management Act (NFWA), enacted in 1976. This legislation, as with similar laws in Canada and Europe, was created to address competing interests within public forests. Prior to 1976, management of public forests was geared towards industrial uses, with little regard for non-timber values. With the passing of the NFWA, an obligation to consider recreational uses, wildlife habitat and watershed integrity became part of management practices in public forests.  While governance of public forests in the United States falls within one agency, the regulation of forestry on private lands is far more complex. State governments are generally charged with establishing laws relating to forestry on private lands, with an average of six state agencies responsible for enforcing proper forestry practices per state. Totalling 276 agencies nationwide, this arrangement results in complex administrative processes and fragmented regulatory authority (Ellefson, Kilgore, Hibbard, & Granskog, 2004). Furthermore, the goals and priorities of these agencies may vary greatly from state to state. As such, a substantial amount of dissatisfaction exists regarding regulation of forestry on private land in the United States, with confrontational politics and poor communication between the public and regulating bodies cited as the main elements of contention (May, 1993). Conclusion British Columbia is famous for its vast forests and dramatic landscapes, but it is also unique for its particular approach to governing its resources. Few places in the world possess such plentiful forest reserves in the hands of the public trust: there are 20 hectares of public forested land for every British Columbian. Across many Western countries, concerns for environmental integrity have brought a shift from industrial-focused forest management to multiple-use planning practices. British Columbia has been followed this trend, and has been able to adapt its management practices to include public participation, accommodate First Nations concerns, and develop environmentally responsible policies.  Many challenges still face the governing bodies charged with managing British Columbia’s forests. The global recession has reduced demand for timber, while governmental budgets have shrunk. Climate change and large-scale pest outbreaks threaten timber supplies and put vulnerable woodland species further at risk. In the name of public interest, the British Columbian government must deal with these challenges, all while balancing the various environmental, economic and social demands that are put on the forest.      9  Government Regulation of Forestry in British Columbia Andrew Plowright References Armstrong, P. (2009). Conflict resolution and British Columbia’s Great Bear Rainforest: Lessons learned 1995-2009 (p. 19). Blinkley, C. S., Percy, M., Thompson, W. A., & Vertinsky, I. B. (1994). A general equilibrium analysis of the economic impact of a reduction in harvest levels in British Columbia. The Forestry Chronicle, 70(4), 449–454. Darr, D. R., & Boulter, D. W. K. (1991). Timber trends and prospects for North America. Retrieved from Drushka, K. (1993). Touch Wood: BC Forests at the Crossroads. (B. Nixon, Ed.) (1st ed., p. 236). Harbour. Ellefson, P. V., Kilgore, M. A., Hibbard, C. M., & Granskog, J. E. (2004). Regulation of forestry practices on private land in the United States: Assessment of state agency responsibilities and program effectiveness. Department of Forest Resources, University of Minnesota. Fenger, M. (1996). Implementing biodiversity conservation through the British Columbia Forest Practices Code. Forest Ecology and Management, 85(1-3), 67–77. doi:10.1016/S0378-1127(96)03751-6 Food and Agriculture Organization. (2010). Global Forest Resources Assessment 2010 (p. 378). Frame, T. M., Gunton, T., & Day, J. C. (2004). The role of collaboration in environmental management: an evaluation of land and resource planning in British Columbia. Journal of Environmental Planning and Management, 47(1), 59–82. doi:10.1080/0964056042000189808 Government of Australia. (2013). Forests of Australia. Gustavson, K. R., Lonergan, S. C., & Ruitenbeek, H. J. (1999). Selection and modeling of sustainable development indicators: a case study of the Fraser River Basin, British Columbia. Ecological Economics, 28(1), 117–132. doi:10.1016/S0921-8009(98)00032-9 Haley, D., & Luckert, M. (1996). Policy Instruments for Sustainable Development in the British Columbia Forestry Sector. In A. S. J. B. Robinson (Ed.), Managing Natural Resources in British Columbia: Markets, Regulations, and Sustainable Development (p. 220). Hickey, G. M., & Innes, J. L. (2008). Indicators for demonstrating sustainable forest management in British Columbia, Canada: An international review. Ecological Indicators, 8(2), 131–140. doi:10.1016/j.ecolind.2006.11.005 Howlett, M., Rayner, J., & Tollefson, C. (2009). From government to governance in forest planning? Lessons from the case of the British Columbia Great Bear Rainforest initiative. Forest Policy and Economics, 11(5-6), 383–391. doi:10.1016/j.forpol.2009.01.003 Innes, J. L. (2003). The incorporation of research into attempts to improve forest policy in British Columbia. Forest Policy and Economics, 5(4), 349–359. doi:10.1016/S1389-9341(03)00034-0 Landsberg, J., & Waring, R. (2014). Forests in our changing world: new principles for conservation and management (p. 304). Island Press. Langer, V. (2014). ForestEthics Solutions Comments Regarding Proposed Conversion of Volume Based Tenures to Area Based Tenures. Forest Ethics. Lindestav, G. (1998). Women as non‐industrial private forest landowners in Sweden. Scandinavian Journal of Forest Research, 13(1-4), 66–73. Lindroos, O., Lidestav, G., & Nordfjell, T. (2005). Swedish Non-industrial Private Forest Owners – a Survey of Self-employment and Equipment Investments. Small-Scale Forest Economics, Management and Policy, 4(4), 409–426. Luckert, M. K. (1991). The perceived security of institutional investment environments of some British Columbia forest tenures. Canadian Journal of Forest Research, 21(3), 318–325. M’Gonigle, M., Gunton, T., Fletcher, C., Murdoch, M., & MacKnight, D. (1992). Comprehensive wilderness protection in British Columbia: An economic impact assessment. The Forestry Chronicle, 62(3), 357–364. Marchak, P. (1983). Green Gold: The Forestry Industry in British Columbia (1st ed., p. 454). Vancouver, BC: UBC Press. Mascarenhas, M., & Scarce, R. (2004). “The Intention Was Good”: Legitimacy, Consensus-Based Decision Making, and the Case of Forest Planning in British Columbia, Canada. Society & Natural Resources, 17(1), 17–38. doi:10.1080/08941920490247227 Mathey, A.-H., Nelson, H., & Gaston, C. (2009). The economics of timber supply: Does it pay to reduce harvest levels? Forest Policy and Economics, 11(7), 491–497. doi:10.1016/j.forpol.2009.05.006 May, P. J. (1993). Mandate design and implementation : Enhancing implementation efforts and shaping  10  Government Regulation of Forestry in British Columbia Andrew Plowright regulatory styles. Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 12(4), 634. McGee, G., Cullen, A., & Gunton, T. (2010). A new model for sustainable development: a case study of The Great Bear Rainforest regional plan. Environment, Development and Sustainability, 12(5), 745–762. Mitchell, S. J. (2003). Who owns crown lands? Neimanis, V. P. (2011). Crown Land. In Canadian Encyclopedia. Historica Foundation. Nelson, H. W., & Nikolakis, W. (2012). How Does Corporatization Improve the Performance of Government Agencies? Lessons From the Restructuring of State-Owned Forest Agencies in Australia. International Public Management Journal, 15(3), 364–391. doi:10.1080/10967494.2012.725323 Nursall, K. (2013). Clayoquot Protests Nurtured “Jaded Sense Of Fair Play,” Mayor Says. The Huffington Post. Retrieved from Patriquin, M. N., Wellstead, A. M., & White, W. a. (2007). Beetles, trees, and people: Regional economic impact sensitivity and policy considerations related to the mountain pine beetle infestation in British Columbia, Canada. Forest Policy and Economics, 9(8), 938–946. doi:10.1016/j.forpol.2006.08.002 Province of British Columbia. (2002). Timber Supply Analysis in British Columbia. Victoria, BC. Province of British Columbia. (2010). Crown land: Indicators & Statistics Report (p. 110). Province of British Columbia. (2012). British Columbia Greenhouse Gas Inventory Report. Sahajananthan, S., Haley, D., & Nelson, J. (1998). Planning for Sustainable Forests in British Columbia through Land Use Zoning. Canadian Public Policy, 24(2), S73–S81. doi:10.2307/3551881 Smith, M., & Sterritt, S. (2007). From Conflict to Collaboration : The Story of the Great Bear Rainforest (p. 17). U.S. Government Accountability Office. (2009). Observations on a Possible Move of the Forest Service into the Department of the Interior (p. 84). Walter, P. (2007). Adult Learning in New Social Movements: Environmental Protest and the Struggle for the Clayoquot Sound Rainforest. Adult Education Quarterly, 57(3), 248–263. Wilson, J. (1999). Talk and Log: Wilderness Politics in British Columbia (1st ed., p. 468). University of Washington Press.   


Citation Scheme:


Citations by CSL (citeproc-js)

Usage Statistics



Customize your widget with the following options, then copy and paste the code below into the HTML of your page to embed this item in your website.
                            <div id="ubcOpenCollectionsWidgetDisplay">
                            <script id="ubcOpenCollectionsWidget"
                            async >
IIIF logo Our image viewer uses the IIIF 2.0 standard. To load this item in other compatible viewers, use this url:


Related Items