The provincial governments plan to protect as much as 43 per cent of the province for the forestry industry through its Working Forest legislation may not be as time sensitive as environmentalists were led to believe, according to the Western Canada Wilderness Committee.
In a private conversation with Forests Minister Gordon Wilson, the minister told WCWC director Joe Foy that contrary to a ministry press release that said the government plans to introduce the legislation in the spring the cabinet has not decided anything yet.
The Feb. 12 press release states "The B.C. Government will introduce legislation this spring to protect families and forest communities by defining and securing working forests in British Columbia." Public comments were directed to the Web site, and within the first two weeks some 130 people from across the country and around the world posted their objections only one public comment was in favour of the legislation.
The legislation would protect Working Forest land in an attempt to bring certainty to logging operations and forestry-dependent communities. Under the legislation, forestry companies would be entitled to compensation for any reduction of the Working Forest, and there would be no net loss of Working Forest land.
Environmental groups criticized the act, saying the Working Forest designation would all but close the door on any more protected areas. They also believe it will set back First Nation treaty negotiations, reduce public input into the use of public lands, and ultimately cost taxpayers more money as treaty negotiations drag on and forest tenure holders seek compensation.
"We are working hard to inform people of this extremely shortsighted legislation that, if passed, would essentially corporate-ize our public forest lands," said Foy.