February 16, 2004

BC Forest and Range Practices Act regulations reinforce results-based stewardship approach

British Columbia's new Forest and Range Practices Act regulations came into effect January 31, 2004, although forest and range licence holders have until December 31, 2005 to switch over from operating under the new regulatory system's predecessor, BC's Forest Practices Code. At the same time, the Ministry of Forests will begin offering training on the new regulations this month to nearly 7,000 government and industry personnel.

Forests Minister Michael de Jong said the new legislation and regulations will both promote industry innovation and reduce red tape, while upholding environmental standards. "Since the focus of the regulations is with 'practices on the ground,' government was able to eliminate duplicative and unnecessary paperwork-reducing regulatory requirements from the previous code by 55%," he said.

The Forest and Range Practices Act, introduced in late 2002 (ELW November 11, 2002), provides a results-based approach to forest resource management in place of a process and paperwork-oriented structure. Once it is fully implemented, the Ministry of Forests' overall regulatory count will drop by about 50%. The forest stewardship plan set out in the legislation replaces three operational plans previously required under the Forest Practices Code. As well, 18 approval steps are eliminated.

The Act and regulations require all forest and range operators on Crown land to address government objectives aimed at conserving environmental integrity. Forest and woodlot licensees are required to submit forest stewardship plans and woodlot licence plans to the government for approval. These plans must indicate how the licencees' results or strategies will meet government objectives for forest values. The objectives address key elements such as retention of old growth and wildlife trees, as well as wildlife, soils, fish and water quality objectives.

Through the Government Actions Regulation, the province may develop specific objectives in localized areas to protect certain environmental and/or socio-economic values and then require operators to be consistent with those values.

The Range Planning and Practices Regulation sets out provisions governing livestock grazing, hay cutting and developments such as fences on Crown range in the province. It sets objectives for conservation of a full spectrum of range and forage values, and contains the detailed planning and practice standards to be met by Range Act agreement holders and other range operators.

The Invasive Plants Regulation enables the Ministry of Forests to protect Crown forest and rangeland from non-native species not already listed in BC's Weed Control Act; it lists 42 plants with the potential to adversely affect the ecology of Crown lands.

The Administrative Remedies Regulation allows monetary penalties to be assessed, for the first time, for contraventions of all forestry legislation, including the Forest Act, the Range Act, and their regulations. The new regulation also increases penalties significantly: the maximum fine, for example, is increased from $100,000 to $500,000. The Security for Forest and Range Practices Liability Regulation enables the government to require a security deposit from licensees. Should a licensee fail to fulfill its obligations, the deposit will provide the funds needed to carry out these activities.

Notably as well, the Act provides "whistleblower" protection to help ensure that all contraventions are dealt with.

More information is available from Don McDonald at the Ministry of Forests, 250/387-8486, or on the BC Web site, www.gov.bc.ca.

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