Wilderness Tourism Association of BC Calls for Greater Cooperation in Forest Management

Logging in the Great Bear Rainforest
Logging in the Great Bear Rainforest

On Feb. 6th, the Wilderness Tourism Association of BC sent the following letter to the Premier of BC and to the Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development. In it, the WTA requests that “the government to announce the creation of a multi-disciplinary task group to consider the economic and governance implications of making changes to FRPA to ensure that forest harvesting, wilderness tourism, and public recreation opportunities remain viable for all, while improving accountability for the outcomes of this public resource.”

If you’d like to learn more about the WTA and its activities, please contact me. I currently serve as Secretary of the association.

February 6, 2018

Honorable John Horgan, Premier of BC,

Honorable Doug Donaldson, Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development

Dear Premier and Minister:

The Wilderness Tourism Association (WTA) of BC is an industry association focused on improving land use practices and resolving land use issues for the benefit of wilderness tourism operators, the environment, and other resource users. We are writing to express our concern about current forestry practices and elicit your participation in creating an approach for all resource users that Is fair for all users.

Revenues from wilderness tourism contributes over $2 billion annually to BC. As you are aware, tourism is one of BC’s top three economic drivers employing thousands while having a small environmental footprint. The images from the Super, Natural BC campaign attracts a significant portion of tourists to our province. Maintaining this image, and delivering on quality experiences in a natural environment, is the cornerstone for tourism in our province.

Forest harvesting and access to remote areas is often the primary negative influence on wilderness tourism and recreational experiences. The Forest and Range Practices Act (FRPA) and Regulation, as currently written, puts all resource users except for the forest industry at a significant disadvantage from a resource utilization perspective. Neither the Act, nor regulation, compels forest companies to consult or consider other forest users or values (except where specified in regulation) in their forest planning, access and harvest activities. Where visual constraints for forestry exist, they are often inadequate or grossly outdated.

The professional reliance and goodwill model relied upon for the past 11 years has failed other forest resource users as noted repeatedly by the Forest Practices Board, tourism operators, and public recreationalists. The lack of government monitoring, and enforcement along with a culture of indifference by forestry decision makers, has left the integrated forest management concept in need of substantial changes.

Asking businesses and public recreationalists to participate in voluntary forest planning activities, with no requirement to consider their input or justify final decisions, leads to frustration. The lack of meaningful engagement asks a lot of people, who should be able to depend on the government to ensure fair and wise use of crown resources.

We believe a paradigm shift is required and recommend the changes listed below be adopted.These changes would have a low-cost impact on industry profitability and government while significantly improving the business certainty, investment and outcomes for the tourism industry and others dependent on the forest landscape.

  • Making changes to the FRPA regulations to require the forest industry to consult and consider non-timber values in their planning and decision making would make a significant improvement in outcomes for non-timber interests. A regulation similar to Oil and Gas regulation (Oil and Gas Act Sec. 22,24 and Regs. Sec. 4,7,9-14) requiring the industry to consult with affected stakeholders would address the majority of the issues that consistently compromise tourism and recreation values in the natural environment. Requiring the forest industry to consult and consider visual quality impacts in areas with high tourism and recreation values in forestry planning will make a considerable difference in the outcomes experienced by businesses with non-timber interests.
  • Revitalization of the enforcement and compliance branch is crucial. Without oversight, countless examples of mismanagement, overharvesting, harvest in inappropriate areas, lack of adherence to legal requirements such as VQOs and EBM can be found all over the province. The findings of the Forest Practices Board on various investigations around the province support this claim.

The WTA supports the recommendations and key findings of the Forest Practices Board in their review of FRPA (Dec/2017: SR/55 and SR/45, SR/52). The WTA has been involved in the FRPA Advisory Committee as well as the Discovery Islands Forestry and Tourism Working Group and feel that with some commitment from government for equality for use of forest resources, there is room for both industries to continue to thrive.

We will be approaching the forest industry with the same request to define workable processes that provides value to all parties. Unfortunately, there is little motivation for the Forest industry to accommodate these requests, therefore, government support is instrumental for these discussions and resulting outcomes to be successful. To be clear, this initiative is not about whether forestry will occur, but rather about how it occurs and where to provide the best economic, social, and environmental outcomes for the province.

If the government is serious about diversifying the provincial economy particularly in rural BC, changes must occur that support the values of other forest resource users while recognizing the value that timber harvesting continues to provide to our province.

Our request is for the government to announce the creation of a multi-disciplinary task group to consider the economic and governance implications of making changes to FRPA to ensure that forest harvesting, wilderness tourism, and public recreation opportunities remain viable for all, while improving accountability for the outcomes of this public resource. The WTA would welcome the opportunity to participate in this initiative.

Yours Truly

Kevin Smith

President

Wilderness Tourism Association of BC

Cc: Minister Lisa Beare

WTA Board Members

 

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