B.C.’s forest watchdog barks warning over reporting

Forest Practices Board has concerns about the timing and accuracy of harvesting and reforestation reports.

A report by B.C.’s forest watchdog critical of the B.C. government’s decision to put compliance in the hands of the forest industry is raising an “I told you so” reaction from critics.

“We saw this coming back in 2004,” Glen Thompson, a Friends of The Chilliwack River Valley spokesman, said about the Forest Practices Board report.

That’s when the B.C. government decided to put reporting of harvesting and reforestation activities in the hands of the forest industry.

The FPB investigation found most licensees are reporting as required by law, “but enough (reports) were incomplete, inaccurate or late to be of concern to the board.”

“We do not have confidence that the forest ministry can adequately describe the current condition of the managed forest or track changes in its condition into the future,” the report continued.

FPB chairman Al Gorely told The Progress there is “no immediate crisis,” but over time government decision-makers could be making forest decisions based on inaccurate information.

Joe Foy at the Western Canada Wilderness Committee said those decisions may also impact wildlife dependent on forest habitat, like the Spotted Owl.

“This report is a very sad document,” he said, but the FPB investigation confirms the WCWC’s earlier warning that allowing the industry to regulate itself “was like putting the fox in charge of the chicken coop.”

“It was a disaster waiting to happen,” Foy said.

Neither Gorely nor local forest officials could immediately say whether any of the industry reports that sparked the FPB’s concerns were made in the Chilliwack Forest District.

Thompson said the inability of local forest officials to speak about local compliance is like a prison official telling the public “to wait until he counts heads to confirm a jail break.”

“They should be able to tell you this stuff right off the top,” he said.

Ministry staff were also unable to report on compliance in the Chilliwack forest district, but said the report’s recommendations are already being addressed.

“While (the new reporting system) has issues,” staff said in an email, “it is integrated with other natural resource reporting systems, which helps us make sound and comprehensive land management decisions.”

Nearly $15-million is being made annually, the email continued, “by eliminating the need for yearly paper-based submissions.”

rfreeman@theprogress.com

twitter.com/paperboy2

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