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VICTORIA – A new working forest policy proposed by the provincial government will provide greater land-base certainty for forestry and help build a stronger economy, Sustainable Resource Management Minister Stan Hagen said today.
“We made a New Era commitment to establish a working forest land base that will provide greater stability for the families and communities that depend on the forestry industry,” Hagen said. “Revitalizing our number 1 industry starts with creating certainty on the land base, increasing access to timber and ensuring jobs in rural B.C.”
Under the proposed policy, outlined in a discussion paper released today, about 45 million hectares of Crown land – 48 per cent of the province – will be given a new legal working forest designation. Parks, protected areas and private land will not be part of the working forest, nor will the designation limit treaty negotiations with First Nations. Also, government will still be required to meet its legal obligations to consult with First Nations and seek to accommodate their interests.
“The needs of present and future generations of British Columbians are met through increased certainty for the forest industry and by balancing economic, environmental and social values,” Hagen said. “We have talked with stakeholders, and intend to continue conversations during the review period. The forest industry and the Union of B.C. Municipalities have asked for a working forest for more than five years as a way of creating certainty and jobs in their communities.”
The working forest designation permits a broad range of uses including tourism, mining, ranching and recreation while recognizing the critical importance of all primary industries.
“Establishing a working forest recognizes the importance of sustainable forestry to the economic stability and well-being of the province,” said John Allan, president of the B.C. Lumber Trade Council. “It is a step all British Columbians should applaud.”
Public comment is invited on the discussion paper online at www.gov.bc.ca/srm/ and will be accepted until March 14 by e-mail, fax or mail. Necessary legal steps for designation of the working forest will take place this year.
A chart showing the breakdown of the working forest and other land types in B.C. is online at www.gov.bc.ca/srm/ – click on Working Forest under Key Initiatives, and then on Background Materials.