Port questions ‘”working forest”

  • Feb. 5, 2003 9:00 a.m.

The provincial government’s proposal to reclassify almost half of BC as “working forest” will simply hand more control over to big industry, says Port Clements councillor Gerry Johnson.
But Mr. Johnson said the attempt is probably doomed to failure, because recent court decisions have given much more say to First Nations about how crown land is used, and more court decisions are on the way.
“This is just the provincial government appeasing their big contributors to their campaign funds,” Mr. Johnson said at Monday’s council meeting (Feb. 3). “If they took the money they’re going to spend on this process and put it into health care on northern Graham Island, we’d all be ahead.”
The government’s plans are outlined in a 21-page discussion paper titled “A Working Forest for British Columbia.” Basically, it proposes reclassifying all crown land that has timber on it or used to have timber on it as “working forest”, with the goal of providing greater stability for “working families” and more certainty for the forest industry.
Exactly how this would be accomplished is not clear. Councillor Jukka Efraimsson said he was especially intrigued by the government’s claim that the working forest will “revitalize the forest industry, encourage new industry investment and provide new economic opportunities for rural BC.”
“I want to find out what their theory is, what their reasoning is,” Mr. Efraimsson said. “How is this going to provide new economic opportunities for rural BC, given everything else that is happening?”
Council members voted to send a preliminary letter to the Ministry of Sustainable Resource Management asking this question. They also agreed to put several volunteer hours in working on a larger response to the proposals, which they will submit by the government’s March 14 deadline for public input.
“It’s definitely worth us going through with a fine tooth comb,” said Mr. Johnson. “Let’s put together a damn good position paper and share it with our neighbours.”