A logging truck carries a load from a B.C. coastal forest. (Private Forest Landowners Association)

B.C. ministry clears up confusion on private land logging regulations

Private land and private managed forest land – what’s the difference?

Private land logging has been a hot topic in the Elk Valley as forestry companies move into more visible areas and clearcuts impact trails, and sight lines.

However, unless you’re in the forestry industry, you may be a little confused about the difference between timber harvest on private land and private managed forest land.

According to the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, there is a clear distinction between the legislation, regulations, bylaws and oversight that apply to timber harvest on private land and those on private managed forest land (a property class assigned by the BC Assessment Authority).

Awareness of a specific property’s class is integral to the context for how forestry activities on the property may be regulated, explained a spokeswoman.

“For private land, local governments have the power to adopt bylaws that place restrictions on forest management activities within regional or municipal boundaries, including aligning their bylaws with requirements equivalent to Crown forest land regulations,” said the Ministry spokeswoman.

“However, private managed forest landowners receive a certain bylaw exemption in exchange for a commitment to managing their lands for long-term forest production and to using sustainable management practices that protect key public environmental values, as regulated by the Private Managed Forest Land Act.”

The following background information was provided to The Free Press by the Ministry:

All private landowners, regardless of property class are subject to the Water Sustainability Act, Drinking Water Protection Act, Environmental Management Act, Wildlife Act, Assessment Act, Wildfire Act and federal acts such as the Fisheries Act, Migratory Birds Convention Act and Species At Risk Act.

However, private landowners may also apply to the BC Assessment Authority to have their land placed in the Managed Forest Land Class. If their land is placed in this class, they commit to managing their lands for long-term forest production and commit to using sustainable management practices that protect key public environmental values.

Once classed as private managed forest land, the land becomes regulated by the Private Managed Forest Land Act and is subject to a set of standards that are set out and enforced by the Managed Forest Council – basic private forest landowners are not subject to these additional standards or enforcement.

Managed forest land must be kept in the program for a minimum of 15 years and owners are charged an exit fee (based on their number of years in the program) for taking their land out of the program early.

Owners in the program must also pay an annual administration fee to the Managed Forest Council and submit an annual declaration of forest management activities completed during the year.

In exchange for their commitment to long-term, sustainable management practices and required time in the program, private managed forest landowners receive assessed values for land that are generally lower than residential, which can result in lower property taxes.

Additionally, they have the right to harvest trees and local governments cannot adopt bylaws or require permits that would restrict, directly or indirectly, a forest management activity.

Local governments retain the power to adopt bylaws that require information from private managed forest landowners so long as the bylaw doesn’t restrict a forest management activity.

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