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  • A critique of Bill 23


    Van Andruss
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    The NDP government's tinkering with forest legislation is designed solely for the benefit of the logging industry.

     

    665878772_JohnHorganintheKlanawa.c.jpg.20db510ba9d7ade634e46acd640f7218.jpg

    BC Premier John Horgan is reinforcing privatization and overuse of forests on BC Crown land

     

    IN NOVEMBER 2021, the BC government passed Bill 23, the “Forests Statutes Amendment Act,” claiming to revamp forest policy by putting “environment” and “people” first. Considering the wretched condition of BC forests, damaged by disease, fire, and the abusive practices of industrial logging, nothing could be more welcome than a change of policy in line with current ecological realities. For years, in fact for decades, those who love BC forests have longed for such an awakening. But does Bill 23 get us what we longed for?

    The greatest part of the amendments refer to the Forest and Range Practices Act (FRPA), involving scrupulous tweaking of vocabulary and protocols around landscape planning, permitting and roading – all in the interest of timber extraction. The Bill neither updates nor consolidates the current patchwork of BC forestry laws in the Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development (FLNRORD) portfolio, nor does it make any clear, effective statutory statement in favour of the public interest.

    Overall, the issues that BC citizens most care about are not addressed in Bill 23.

    There is no mention of tenure reform. Crown lands, our provincial commons, remain de facto privatized by logging companies whose only goal is profit.

    No innovative logging practices are required of industry. The antiquated and devastating method of clearcutting remains firmly in place (the cheapest method), as well as monoculture for replanting and chemical spraying, rather than an enlightened eco-forestry approach.

    No protection of old growth from further logging and from BC Timber Sales affecting old growth areas.

    No change regarding raw log exports.

    No changes to prevailing allowable annual cut (AAC) determinations; no concern about actual sustainability of forest resources.

    No mention of carbon emissions from industrial logging or obligations regarding effects on climate change, i.e., no mitigation, no restoration-strategies, no decarbonisation.

    No reference to the input of science; no concern for biodiversity; no protection of species-at-risk; no reference to habitat loss caused by clearcutting (couldn’t anywhere locate the word habitat, as forests contain nothing but timber).

    No protection of watersheds; no protection of water itself; no concern for flooding, drought, soil erosion or pollution of water caused by inept logging.

    Continued adherence to the much-criticized and morally compromised Profession Reliance Model that empowers RPFs employed by logging companies to make site choices and draw up cutting-plans.

    No legislated process for community input before cutting plans are approved and no legal right of challenge by local residents directly impacted by such plans.

    NOTE: In Bill 23, there is a significant expansion of executive powers devoid of opportunity to comment on new regulations or orders before they are issued. Also, with all the fine talk about Indigenous participation in forest planning, final decisions are firmly in the grip of the chief forester. Indigenous parties are welcome to take their objections to court.

    The expanded governmental executive power will impinge on the fundamental rights of all BC citizens, First Nations, and members of the press, who are no longer free (without permission from the Ministry) to set foot on roads located on Crown land in order to monitor the activities of industry, whether pipelines, transmission lines, road builders, or police enforcement operations.

    Considering the above review, are we to believe that Bill 23 revamps forest policy so as to put “environment” and “people” first?

    On the contrary, Bill 23 is a set of amendments designed solely for the benefit of the timber industry. Its saccharine promises, directed at a naïve public, is meant to say: “Now go back to sleep, honey, we’ll take care of everything.”

    Van Andruss is a Bioregionalist who lives with his family in the Yalakom Valley. He is co-author of Home: A Bioregional Reader, The Life of Fred Brown, and a series of BC place-oriented anthologies called Lived Experience.

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    Are NDP climate change deniers? Looks like it Van, you have pointed out many of the actions lacking in Bill 23 , the government and logging industry continue to not be precautionary with BC's crown land management. 

    They have had 4 years to step up to the plate and reform forestry for all British Columbians and the landscape, instead they have wasted our time and dollars, the heavily INDUSTRY-biased FRPA Advisory Committee must  be proud of themselves for this shameful tweaking of the status quo.  Thank you Minister’s Practices Advisory Council (PAC), seems your greatest contribution is increasing the policing and privatizing of logging roads so you don't end up with more out of Control  Fairy Creek blockades.

     Diane Nicholls PAC Co-chair, Assistant Deputy Minister and BC Provincial Chief Forester

    Garry Merkel PAC Co-chair, Appointee of the First Nations Leadership Council

    Sally Aitken Academic adviser, UBC Stirling Angus Logging contractors

    Shannon Janzen Major Licensees, Coast Brian Frenkel Union of BC Municipalities

    Jennifer Gunter BC Community Forest Association

    Brad Harrison Wilderness tourism and recreation

    Mike McConnell BC Cattlemen’s Association

    Brian McNaughton Federation of BC Woodlot Associations

    Lisa Matthaus Unaffiliated Environmental Non-Governmental Organizations

    Jeff Mycock Major Licensees, Interior John Betts Forestry workers

    Jeff Bromley Mill workers Ministry Staff and PAC Affiliates:

    Shane Berg, Alternate Co-Chair, Executive Director, Deputy Chief Forester

    Norah White, Secretariat and Staff Advisor (Forestry), Resource Practices Branch

    Jodie Kekula, Staff Advisor (Range), Range Branch

    Julie MacDougall, Director, Resource Practices Branch

    PAC member list_Jan2020.pdf

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    Ya, I've thought it's pretty abysmal too.  Certainly not clearly spelled out if conservation is intended, and still just consulting with Nations rather than getting consent (albeit with perhaps a little more effort that has to made?)  There are a couple things tho, that you mentioned that I have heard change of.  One is BC Timber Sales not selling tenure for any of the 2.6 million apparent deferrals, tho that is seperate from the forestry act I believe.   The other is that Gary Merkel, in a webinar last week said that the wording is being changed in all the legislature to get rid of the phrase about environmental considerations only being without undue harm to timber.  If that's true, that would be huge!   He also said that the AAC will be going down by 30% for each of the next couple years, that one, again would not be written into the act.  

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    Can Van Andruss or someone from Evergreen Alliance clarify or unpack the statement in Van Andruss' critique of Bill 23 quoted below:

     

    NOTE: In Bill 23, there is a significant expansion of executive powers devoid of opportunity to comment on new regulations or orders before they are issued. Also, with all the fine talk about Indigenous participation in forest planning, final decisions are firmly in the grip of the chief forester. Indigenous parties are welcome to take their objections to court.

    The expanded governmental executive power will impinge on the fundamental rights of all BC citizens, First Nations, and members of the press, who are no longer free (without permission from the Ministry) to set foot on roads located on Crown land in order to monitor the activities of industry, whether pipelines, transmission lines, road builders, or police enforcement operations.

    Does this signal that the onus is reversed re the right of a BC citizen to be on a logging road on Crown land from having a right to be there (albeit without blocking the road) to having to have permission from the Ministry (FLNRORD) to be there at all?  Is there more to this than what seems to be there? 

    I ask as Old Growth Revylution is currently blockading the Forest Service Road into the Bigmouth Valley north of Revelstoke and we feel it is very important that we understand this part of the legislation very clearly. We would very much appreciate your assistance.

    Thank you,

    Virginia Thompson 

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    13 hours ago, V Thompson said:

    Can Van Andruss or someone from Evergreen Alliance clarify or unpack the statement in Van Andruss' critique of Bill 23 quoted below:

    Hi Virginia,

    Good question. Seems evident that the provision in question is aimed at blockades of forestry roads. The actual wording of Bill 23 can be found here: https://www.leg.bc.ca/parliamentary-business/legislation-debates-proceedings/42nd-parliament/2nd-session/bills/first-reading/gov23-1

    Yves Mayrand has an in-depth critique of Bill 23 here: 

    In that analysis, Yves notes:

    • with respect to a forest service road or forest resource road, requirements for a person who uses a forest service road to provide notice to the minister or a prescribed person in relation to the person’s use of the forest service road, authorizing a person to close a road, restrict the use of a road, and/or remove property from a road, including but not limited to removing vehicles or animals, and/or requirements for the owner of property removed from a road to pay a person who removed the property the costs of the removal;

    Here's the pertinent portion of Yves analysis:

    The following should be duly understood and noted with respect to the expanded powers of the executive government of British Columbia in section 155 of the FRPA, as amended:

    • there is no provision in the FRPA, as amended by Bill 23, respecting the determination of, or the disputing of, the costs of the removal of property from roads;

    • regulations under section 155 of the FRPA, as amended by Bill 23, may be issued by order in council setting their effective date and published in the Gazette without prior consultation or comments;

    • no exception, accommodation, variation or reservation is made in the FRPA or the FA, as amended by Bill 23, for forest roads located within the unceded traditional territories of First Nations in British Columbia, their aboriginal rights, the application of their treaty rights, or the implementation of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act of British Columbia (DRIP Act);

    • the explanatory note in Bill 23 with respect to the proposed amendments to section 155 of the FRPA only states the obvious: they expand the authority of the Lieutenant Governor in Council (executive government) to make regulations in relation to roads; it does not provide any explanation as to their actual extent, why they are necessary, how, under what circumstances and for what period of time they will be used, or subject to what criteria and safeguards;

    • this set of new executive powers may well be used with a view to legalizing and court-proofing the forcible seizure and removal of vehicles and other private property on forest roads by forest tenure agreement holders (such as, for example, Teal Cedar Products Ltd. in TFL 46), other industrial resource extraction licence or permit holders, infrastructure builders or operators (such as, for example, CGL in Wet’suwet’en traditional territory), their agents, contractors and subcontractors, and police enforcement bodies (such as, for example, the RCMP) at the unregulated and arbitrary expense of the owners of such private property, thus preventing or impeding the free circulation of the public and the media on these roads and the monitoring and reporting of controversial industrial logging or other industrial activities and enforcement measures within forested provincial Crown land.

      In short, the proposed amendments to the FRPA in Bill 23 will provide that:

    1. forest roads are essentially reserved for industrial uses (forest harvesting, sylviculture and natural resource development) by industrial users;

    2. Non-industrial users of forest roads, including BC residents, hikers, monitors and members of First Nations, may eventually be required to pay expenses to government, a holder of a permit or licence, other persons who meet “prescribed requirements”, or a person responsible for maintaining a forest road;

    3. forest tenure holders, road permit and timber cutting permit holders, other natural resource extraction licence or permit holders, pipeline owners or operators, their respective subcontractors, agents, or representatives, or police enforcement officers may be empowered by government regulation to control access to, ingress to and egress from forest roads and their related rights of way (37.5 metres each side from the centre of the road), including by lawfully blocking forest roads to members of First Nations, peaceful protesters, the press, monitors and legal observers;

    4. exclusion zones may be applied under the authority of new forest road regulations, and the courts effectively hindered or prevented from protecting freedom of the press and the constitutional rights of peaceful protesters in these exclusion zones; and

    5. vehicles and other private property may eventually be seized and moved to discretionary remote locations with or without prior court order or injunction, and their owners required to pay discretionary or arbitrary removal costs to regain possession of their property, thus targeting and arbitrarily penalizing peaceful protesters, members of the press, monitors and legal observers present on forest roads.

     

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    Hello, Virginia. Let me advise you to look carefully at Yves Mayrand's commentary, for it is Yves's commentary on which I based my article: 

    My understanding is that we ordinary citizens are not wanted on industrial logging roads while operations are underway, and that if we go there for protests or monitoring, we may be violating gov't regulations and could at least be  "asked" to leave.  So it appears.

    But, of course, where there's no industrial activity happening, there can't really be a problem; and as David has suggested, this new regulation is undoubtedly a reaction to the Fairy Creek protest and protests in other locations.

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