The recent announcement from B.C. Environment Minister George Heyman setting the terms of reference for the government’s review of professional reliance in the natural resource sector brings some much-needed clarity to an item that was promised by both the NDP and Green Party during the election.
As a professional regulator in the forest sector, the Association of BC Forest Professionals is supportive of ensuring professional reliance serves the needs of British Columbians and we look forward to working with Minister Heyman to achieve that end. Our 5,400 registered foresters live and work in communities across the province and they know both personally and professionally the importance of having an effective management regime safeguarding our forest ecosystem resources and the values they provide for British Columbians.
Forests are a part of the fabric of B.C. – its environment, economy and culture; every citizen has a stake in them. Well-managed forests help keep our water and air clean; many of us hike, bike, camp, explore, and find spiritual balance in the forest. The forest sector is also a major part of the province’s economy. The forest industry generates one out of every 17 jobs in the province and contributes $33 billion in output, $12.9 billion in GDP, and around $4.1 billion in payments to municipal, provincial, and federal governments each year.
B.C. has a strong record of good forest management and forest professionals playing a key role. Since the establishment of the Foresters Act in 1947, registered forest professionals have managed B.C.’s forests for the results and outcomes expected by the public of the day. Independent professional regulation ensures only those with the proper forest science education, specialized skills, and who are willing to subscribe to professional standards and a code of ethics for their conduct, are entitled to manage B.C.’s forests.
As one of the regulators, the ABCFP ensures there is a clear avenue for public complaints if there are concerns. However, public expectations have evolved over time so a review of the forest management model that includes the professional regulator’s role will clarify for the public that B.C.’s forests are being managed to meet long-term needs.
When talking about professional reliance, we need to be clear whether we are talking about the entire results-based, professional reliance management model introduced in the early 2000’s, or simply the reliance on the expertise of qualified professionals that has occurred for more than 70 years in B.C. The effectiveness of the individual professional and their regulator is just one piece of a larger system and their success is linked to other components within the forest management model.
Thousands of forest management decisions are made every year, and registered foresters are relied upon to make many of them or provide their advice to support others in decision making. Forest professionals must follow rules set by the government aimed at ensuring the environment is protected. On the public’s behalf, the government also sets out the broad results and objectives expected from using the forest resource, and forest professionals are responsible for figuring out how to best achieve those results while consulting with interested parties, communities, First Nations, and assorted stakeholders.
In the results-based professional reliance management model used for forests, the government also provides oversight through its compliance and enforcement program that conducts investigations to review the industry practices on the ground. An independent watchdog, the Forest Practices Board, investigates complaints from the public as well as conducting special investigations and reviews. Through the Forest and Range Evaluation Program (FREP), the provincial government monitors whether the objectives set by government are being met, and together with forest research, evaluates how regulations may need to be adjusted to ensure the continued high environmental standards for which B.C. is world renowned.
Ninety-five per cent of B.C.’s forest resources are publicly owned. Forest professionals work in every part of the forest. Every citizen of B.C. can be confident that the rules set by government, the oversight mechanisms, and the professionals relied upon to undertake the work, are leading to sustainably managed forests in B.C. To that end, the Association of BC Forest Professionals welcomes the opportunity to assist in evaluating the system to ensure the public has confidence in the management of B.C.’s forests.
Christine Gelowitz, RPF, is a registered forest professional and CEO of the Association of BC Forest Professionals.
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