A Vancovuer Island-based resolution that B.C. to decentralize the management of B.C.’s forests was passed overwhelmingly at last week’s Union of B.C. Municipalities conference in Vancouver.
North Cowichan councillor Rob Douglas said he and other supporters of the resolution that would see the province’s forest industry managed at the regional level spent a considerable amount of time discussing the issue with the other delegates from municipalities and regional districts across B.C. over the five days of the conference.
“There was definitely a lot of interest in the idea,” Douglas said. “The concept resonated right across the political spectrum and the urban-rural divide. Hopefully, this is just the beginning of a process. The UBCM adopts hundreds of resolutions at these conferences and nothing will happen with many of them. There is some interest in this at the provincial level so the key right now is for the province’s communities to maintain the pressure for this to happen.”
North Cowichan’s council voted in June in favour Douglas’s proposal to send the resolution to the UBCM for consideration.
At the time, Douglas said the forest industry in B.C. has been on a steady decline in recent decades, with regular mill closures, thousands of jobs lost, and once thriving forestry communities experiencing severe economic decline that is, in part, due to government policies that removed the rules that tied timber harvest to processing at local mills and facilitated an unprecedented growth in raw log exports.
Douglas said many communities across the province have demonstrated that when local people are empowered to manage their forests, such as is the case with the dozens of community forests across the province, there are significant social, economic and environmental benefits.
They include higher levels of local employment and increased self-reliance of rural communities, increased public involvement in resource planning and management decisions, and reduced conflicts over timber harvesting in watersheds and other sensitive areas.
But Douglas cautioned that senior levels of government do not give away any of their authority and powers lightly, but it’s too important an issue for local governments not to press forward on.
“If there was ever a time to change how we manage our forests, it’s now,” he said.
“The province is being asked to examine the feasibility of doing this, and we expect that they will give it a close look. It’s not all theoretical and there are great examples of how well this can work all across the province.”