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Resource management issues top of the list for community discussions

John Cathro facilitates a community discussion about healthy forests in Grand Forks; Photo, Mona Mattei
Using open dialogue with community members in the Boundary, provincial forestry staff got feedback on new forest lands vision, policy statements and local priority issues in a recent meeting.
John Cathro, a consultant with the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations (Ministry of Forests), facilitated three-hour sessions with forestry professionals, community leaders, conservationists, academics, industry representatives and the public in Grand Forks and Midway on Jun. 21. The discussion will assist the ministry in guiding legislation, regulations, policy and practices for forestry across B.C.
“The purpose of this is not to try and reach consensus on any of these issues, it’s to bring up the issues that are important to people and have a discussion about them,” said Cathro. “Just as B.C. is an incredibly rich and diverse jurisdiction, I think so too are the opinions about how the resources should be managed.”
Grand Forks City Councillor Chris Moslin also spoke to his perspective on the health of the forests in the Boundary area and his experiences with environmental and recreational interests before the floor was opened to discussion.
Concerns raised by the participants ranged from water quality management, the redesign of the newly amalgamated ministry, resource management for different interests, to the lack of inclusion of communities in planning processes and general management of the forests.
The design of the new “super” ministry – combining lands, forests and other natural resource ministries – brought forward both positive and negative comments. While some have fear that the large ministry will become bogged down, others liked the design because it may promote more collaborative planning and policies.
“The global market determines how resources get managed,” said Mark Andison, director of planning for the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary. “If we start to manage our resources as a basket of resources – mining, forestry, agriculture, tourism – at some point forestry’s going to be down and oil and gas is going to be up. If you start managing the revenues from those various resources to support each other they will ultimately be more benefitial.”
Joint planning for the use of Crown land was widely commented on with an emphasis that all land users should be responsible for the same management requirements.
“I think it’s having a balanced approach to management of all of the resources consistently,” said Ron Vautour, woods manager with International Forest Products Ltd. “That would be a dramatic departure from how things are done today. If all of the resources recognize and are treated consistently then we could decide what’s important, set priorities. It doesn’t matter if a miner goes into a creek or a logger goes into a creek or a cow goes into a creek the standard should be the same for all three of those different users.”
More than once it was noted that provincial level planning doesn’t include enough of community values in the process. “I think the message is that we need more communication and we need to start promoting personal ownership of our woods,” commented Councillor Gene Robert. “We all own the forest.”
With the many concerns raised about oversight for silviculture, audits, cattle ranging, Vautour pointed out that there is a significant role of forest professionals in managing the forests. “One of the ideas was that it would be nice to have more eyes and ears and boots on the ground out in the bush,” Vautour added. “But that’s not necessarily the answer. That’s where we were 10 years ago in a process-driven regulatory framework whereas now we’re moving towards a practice-driven framework. If the general public had a better understanding of what or how foresters manage the resources, I think they would be more accepting of the regulatory framework.”
A key idea was the concept of a Royal commission to define the current state of resources before any planning stages proceed or before determining new regulations.
The discussion gave community members the opportunity to convey messages to the resource managers and government policy makers. The ideas, issues and action items discussed at the meeting were recorded and taken forward to be included in the next stage of the process for the Ministry. The conversation is taking place in 20 communities across B.C. The meeting was organized by local volunteers including Fred Marshall, Randy Treerise and Ray Hanson.
About 25 people attended the session including International Forest Products Ltd. staff, United Steelworkers Union representatives, woodlot owners, Ministry of Forests staff, Granby Wilderness Society, MLA John Slater, Regional District Area D Director Irene Perepolkin, Grand Forks City Councillors Cher Wyers, Christine Thompson, Gene Robert, and Chris Moslin.
The Boundary TSA TSR Data Package has now been signed-off by the District Manager and the Director and has been posted on the FAIB web site: