UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Timber allocation policy in British Columbia to 1972 Clark, Glen David


According to several recent studies, the future of the forest industry in British Columbia is in jeopardy. If present forestry management practices are continued, it is conceivable that within the next decade the timber harvest will decline, employment will be severely reduced, and government revenue from the forest resource will be significantly less than in previous decades. Public ownership of the vast majority of provincial forest land means that government policies are largely responsible for this state of affairs. However, there are relatively few academic studies of the history of those policies. The purpose of this thesis is to review the evolution one aspect of forest policy, the way in which timber is allocated in British Columbia, and to analyze the dynamics of this evolution in light of six alternative theories of the policy-making process. Forest policy in British Columbia is extremely complicated and is the result of decisions made to meet various demands at different times in history. It is only through a detailed understanding of the history of forest policy and the nature of the provincial state that planners, resource managers, and public policy-makers can attempt to resolve the current crisis in the forest industry. Public timber is allocated to private forest companies in British Columbia by a variety of tenures. The form of these tenures has changed dramatically over time. Prior to 1912, access to the forest resource was granted primarily by leases and licenses which carried few restrictions and relatively low royalties and rents. These tenures were perpetually renewable until the merchantable timber was removed. Between 1912 and 1947 the primary method of disposing crown timber was through competitive bidding on short-term timber sales. The crown not only received royalties and rental fees from these Timber Sale Licenses, but also a bid price. The Forest Branch established a minimum bid price based on the value of the end product minus the costs of production and an allowance for profit and risk. After 1947, the government attempted to regulate the harvest of timber in such a way as to guarantee a perpetual supply of timber. They did this by awarding huge tracts of public land to owners of private forest land and perpetual tenures in order for them to manage the whole property on a sustained yield basis. On the remaining majority of forest land the government set aside large areas which were to be managed by the public sector on sustained yield principles. Over time, as a result of these policies, competition for the resource was virtually eliminated and, as one consequence, the government always received the appraised upset price for timber. It appears that this has undervalued the crown's share of the resource rent. The combined effect of timber allocation policies after 1947 was to accommodate, if not encourage, the consolidation of timber rights. In order to explain the evolution of timber policy in British Columbia and to guide future policy development, the thesis examines six broad theories of how the state operates. These are categorized as follows: rationalist, pluralist, neo-conservative, neo-marxist instrumentalist, neo-marxist structuralist, and Canadian. After reviewing these theories the thesis concludes that elements of each theory can be employed to explain different policy changes over time. No single theoretical model is totally adequate to answer the question of why B.C. governments' acted the way they did. Nevertheless, the neo-marxist structuralist and Canadian theories provide the fullest explanation of the role of the state in British Columbia. It is apparent that large forest companies have had a disproportionate influence on public forest policies. Over time, the provincial state has become increasingly dependent on those companies to carry out many forest policy objectives, to provide employment arid generate tax revenues. New resource policies designed to meet the current crisis in the forest industry must recognize these two important facts.

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