Habitat care is part of the ongoing evolution of private forest management. File Photo.

Private forest management report released by province

The Province of British Columbia Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development has released its report on privately managed forest land in B.C. The report is applicable to all concerned B.C. residents, including private landowners and stakeholders, towns, cities, municipalities, First Nation groups, and recreation users.

Private land in B.C. accounts for 4.5 million hectares of the province’s land base “with approximately 818,000 hectares of land in the Managed Forest Program.” In compiling its report, the Ministry received 1225 completed online questionnaires and 283 written submissions. Two hundred and thirty East Kootenay landowners participated.

The goals of the Private Managed Forest Land Program (PMFL) are to “encourage private landowners to manage their lands for long-term forest production and to encourage sustainable forest management practices, including protecting key public environmental values.” The objectives are soil conservation, critical wildlife habitat management, fish habitat, drinking water quality, and reforestation. Only seven per cent of currently enrolled participants “strongly agree” that the benefits of being in the program are adequate to continue program participation. Twenty one per cent agreed that staying in the program was beneficial.

“In general, there was consensus around concern for the current state of private managed forest land in B.C.,” said the Province in its report. The report says there are several priority areas for managing private forests. They include watershed functionality, protection of community watersheds, transparency of PMFL owners, public and First Nation engagement, climate change adaptation, preservation of riparian zones around streams, embracing social and cultural values, and third party environmental audits. The report recommends the broadening of existing environmental values to “include biodiversity, visual quality and sustainable harvest practices.” The report also recommended the inclusion of “new social and cultural values to protect Indigenous interests and values.” It also recommended that water quantity and quality be a priority in forest management. The report also recommended the implementation of an annual cut limit, and that the “shape and size of the cut-blocks should be regulated.”

The Province also said that “new forest land reserves should be established in partnership with Indigenous groups.” Allowance was made in the report for recommendations from “special interest groups.”

This included cultural, aesthetic, and recreational values, habitat protection, maintenance of a longterm fibre supply, wildfire prevention, public access for recreation, First Nations traditional use, climate change resiliency, inclusion of local governments and mandatory PMFL program participation.

The preceding are report highlights, and are not intended to be an exhaustive list. The Free Press recommends that interested groups and individuals read the report online at: engage.gov.bc.ca/privatemanagedforest/private-managed-forest-land-program

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