The District of Sechelt’s vision for environmental stewardship within the “community forest” is now available for public review and comment. This document, called a Forest Stewardship Plan (FSP), describes the district’s legally binding commitments to environmental protection. Readers will recall that, during the application process, the district frequently assured the public that its community forest application was for the purpose of achieving environmental protection. Mayor Cam Reid also asserted that if the district didn’t accept the drinking watersheds as part of its operating area, other licensees, such as BC Timber Sales, would log in the watersheds. With the publication of this FSP, we can now see if the District has lived up to its commitments.
The first review is not very promising. To begin with, the district’s FSP is virtually identical to that of BC Timber Sales and adheres to the absolute minimum standards of environmental protection permissible under the Forest and Range Practices Act. For example, in the realm of drinking water protection, the FSP commits to not having an adverse impact on the Sunshine Coast Regional District’s water treatment plant unless this “unduly restricts the flow of timber.” The strategy for achieving this goal is to govern logging through a Coastal Watershed Assessment Procedure. This amounts to less protection than even that proposed in the 1998 Chapman/Gray Integrated Watershed Management Plan, which was soundly defeated by an 87% margin in an SCRD referendum.
As far as wildlife is concerned, this FSP does not specify a strategy for frogs, marbled murrelets or other at-risk species, on the grounds that the required minimum amounts of land needed for protection have already been set aside in the operating areas of other licensees. Overall, the “community” forest commits to no legal obligations for species or plant communities recognized as at-risk by BC’s Conservation Data Centre or by the federal Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.
An FSP must meet certain minimum requirements but is not limited to those minimums. With this FSP the “community” forest management team has finally gone on record about the kind of forestry that they intend to practice. Their choice has been to ignore the “community” and institute the lowest possible levels of environmental protection.
Considering what had been previously promised, the District of Sechelt needs to drastically improve its “stewardship” plan before submitting it for approval.
Dan Bouman – Executive Director, SCCA