Land Grab Rejected 24 Years Ago - Resurrected in BC Liberals' Bill 8
by B.C. Tap Water AllianceVancouver - Mere months before the May 2013 provincial election, the unpopular BC Liberals have
announced omnibus Bill 8, Miscellaneous Statutes Amendment Act. Tucked inside in Section 24 are
provisions for a controversial amendment to the Forest Act which would gift timber corporations
with added tenure rights over vast areas of public forestlands, by converting volume-based timber
tenures to area-based tenures.
First unsuccessfully proposed in 1988–1989, and known as the ‘rollover’ of Tree Farm Licenses (TFLs), the proposal was extremely short-lived.
The ‘rollover’ proposed by the BC Liberals’ predecessor, the Social Credit Party, was summarily
rejected by British Columbians in 1989. The Socreds were forced to hold a series of public meetings
throughout the Province, and Forests Minister Parker was forced to disclose to the public not only
the names of the 54 companies involved in the 122 applications, but to also release a “secret” map
showing their areas. (Website background documents link, http://www.bctwa.org/TFLBackgrounder.
The Socred proposals would have significantly increased and concentrated the amount of timber cut
in all TFL tenures (from 29 percent to 67 percent of the provincial Annual Allowable Cut). The
single largest proposal was by New Zealand multinational Fletcher Challenge for an area twice the
size of Switzerland (more than 6 million hectares). Described in leaked confidential documents, the
rollover scheme originated during a secret meeting between the Council of Forest Industries and
Premier Bennett in 1983. The rollovers were linked to a series of overarching privatization agendas
hatched by the Socreds in the 1980s, and linked in turn to international privatization agendas of
Unrelenting opposition from First Nations, hundreds of community and environmental
organizations, academics, professionals, forestry workers, the NDP opposition, and the general
public resulted in a media backlash and precipitated the following:
- the fifth provincial inquiry into forest resources since 1910 (1990-1991);
- a scientific review and the implementation of an old growth forest strategy;
- the defeat and then disintegration of the Social Credit Party in September 1991;
- numerous regional and sub-regional Land Use Plans;
- the 1995 Forest Practices Code Act legislation. The current proposed provincial TFL rollover legislation contained in Section 24 of Bill 8 originated in an April 4, 2012, eleven-page confidential, and subsequently leaked, briefing document to BC
Liberal Cabinet from Lands, Forests and Natural Resource Operations Minister Steve Thompson,
titled: A Timber Supply for Babine Forest Products Mill. The rollover had initially been intended to
benefit American-based Hampton Affiliates’ tenure and Burns Lake mill operation, but the attached
recommendation, “Legislation – Forest Act amendment to enable forest license conversion to tree
farm license,” would soon evolve into an agenda to resurrect rollovers provincially.
According to information compiled by independent MLA Bob Simpson, this last-minute agenda
began to take shape from September to October 2012 in statements emanating from the Ministry of
Forests executive, who deliberately misconstrued recommendations made in the provincial Timber
Supply Committee’s final report. (The Committee had been assigned to investigate impacts on the
timber industry resulting from the pine beetle infestation across BC’s interior forestlands.) The
Committee had not specifically recommended the “rollover” of forest licences.
“It has been 24 years since the public rejected the rollover of Tree Farm Licenses in BC. Why is this old, discredited agenda to privatize public forestland being raised again, just before the election, by a political party that has lost all credibility and has no mandate?,” asks Will Koop, B.C. Tap Water Alliance Coordinator.
“For more than a decade now, the public has been denied meaningful involvement in land use planning, and this in tandem with the abysmal lack of government accountability has been disastrous for BC forests and future generations. We haven’t had a provincial inquiry into the state of our forestlands for over 20 years. BC clearly needs to have another and before any substantive amendments to the Forest Act are contemplated.”
Press Release February 27, 2013
Website Link for Tree Farm License Backgrounder: http://www.bctwa.org/TFL-Backgrounder.html