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A preliminary evaluation of the results-based Forest and Range Practices Act : fostering innovation in forest practices? Malkinson, Leah

Abstract

In 2004 the British Columbia (BC) government introduced the Forest and Range Practices Act (FRPA) and described it as a ‘results-based’ approach to forest management. This research sought to evaluate the potential effectiveness of the FRPA regime in achieving one of its stated goals - ‘to foster the development of innovative forest practices and provide professional freedom to manage in the delivery of defined results’ (BC, 2004). Research methods included a review of the first 65 Forest Stewardship Plans (FSP’s) approved under FRPA to identify the potential for innovation indicated by practice commitments for three key environmental values – soils, biodiversity and riparian areas. A web survey and phone interviews with the prescribing foresters who developed these plans helped to build an understanding of the factors influencing their willingness to innovate under FRPA with respect to practices designed to manage for these three values. This thesis describes how the FRPA framework is not purely performance-based, but is rather a complex mixture of regulatory approaches. It includes the application of a ‘default practice’ approach for most environmental values that licensees may choose to implement or to propose alternative practices for approval. Early FSP’s indicated limited potential for innovation with only 10% of forest practice commitments reflecting approaches that were alternative to the default practices. These alternative forest practices are often better characterized as providing increased flexibility in the application of a default practice, rather than being truly new and innovative. Key reasons for this response include a perception by prescribing foresters that the default forest practices are reasonably effective, leaving little incentive to identify alternatives, and the overriding importance of receiving approval for their first FSP’s within the requisite timelines. The development of alternative forest practices was perceived as potentially time consuming and costly, and could put at risk the certainty of government approval for their FSP, and reasons for this perception are discussed. Further research to evaluate the actual degree of innovation reflected in practices on the ground, as well as the suggested likelihood of increasing innovation in practices over time is recommended.

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International

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