Forest Land Reserve urgently needed to counter unsustainable logging rates and massive sell-off of Vancouver Island forestlands: study

July 16, 2008

VICTORIA — Logging rates and forestland sales by the three largest private forestland owners on southern Vancouver Island pose grave risks to globally rare Douglas fir forests and to the region’s livability, says a study by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

The study finds that in key cases logging rates and land sales spiked following provincial government decisions favoring the companies.

“Last year’s controversial decision by then Forests Minister Rich Coleman to allow Western Forest Products to pull its private forestlands out of its Tree Farm Licenses is proving disastrous for Island residents,” says Ben Parfitt, a resource policy analyst with the CCPA’s BC office, and author of the study. “Loggers and environmentalists alike opposed the move and with good reason. Since then, WFP has accelerated its logging of fir forests and placed thousands of hectares of forestland on the auction block for sale to real estate developers.

The CCPA study comes in the wake of a report by BC’s Auditor General that found Coleman’s decision was made “without sufficient regard for the public interest.” When private lands are bundled with public lands in Tree Farm Licenses, all lands are to be managed on a sustainable basis as forestlands. Because private forestlands within TFLs are designated as “managed forestlands” they cannot be sold for other purposes and are assessed at low tax rates.

Restoring the Public Good on Private Forestlands looks specifically at logging rates, wood waste levels, log exports and proposed land sales on private forestlands owned by WFP, TimberWest and Island Timberlands. It finds that:

  • Logging rates are, in some cases, twice what auditors say can be sustained and in key cases jumped dramatically after the province allowed companies to pull their private holdings out of tree farm licenses.
  • Hundreds of milling jobs are foregone each year based on estimates of log waste on lands owned by the three companies and raw logs that they export from BC.

“Such disturbing trends highlight why BC needs a private forestland reserve, similar to the Agricultural Land Reserve, which would allow governments to ensure private forestlands are managed in the public interest,” Parfitt recommends.

The study also calls for tougher provincial and federal regulations to make exporting raw logs from private forestlands more difficult, and for parity between public and private lands as far as forest practices and environmental regulations are concerned.

“Parity is essential if we are to adequately protect water and other resources,” Parfitt says. “Had tough rules been in place earlier,” Parfitt adds, “it is questionable whether the Capitol Regional District would have felt compelled to pay TimberWest nearly $60 million last summer for a portion of its private forestlands in order to protect a future water source for Greater Victoria.”

“Instead of managing and regulating important forest resources in the public interest, we’re tossing concerns of sustainability, greenhouse gas emissions, drinking water quality and urban sprawl out the window — and for what?” says Parfitt. “For company shareholders that have already benefited enormously from the favorable tax rates that apply to private forestlands.”


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