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A Reformation In Forest Management


December 1, 2010
By Pulp & Paper Canada

Nova Scotia and Ontario are in the discussion stage of the development of their new forest management programs, while Quebec has already turned its new policies into law. Already, there are a few comm…

Nova Scotia and Ontario are in the discussion stage of the development of their new forest management programs, while Quebec has already turned its new policies into law. Already, there are a few common themes in this current round of tenure reform: a preference for competitive bidding over single-company licences; a nod to ecosystem-based resource management; and an opening of the planning process to a broader variety of stakeholders.

Despite some recent examples of co-operation between the forest industry and conservation groups, the provincial forest management policies under development still show echoes of the traditional environment vs. industry paradigm.

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Quebec: Government takes over planning

Quebec’s National Assembly adopted its new Sustainable Forest Development Act last April. The goals of taking forest management away from the forest industry and putting it in government hands seems to have been achieved, as well as a strengthening of local, regional and First Nations interests in the forest planning process.

Jean-Pierre Dansereau, the director of the Fdration des producteurs de bois du Qubec (FPBQ), which represents Quebec wood producers, is still worried that the new Act will place private wood sellers at a disadvantage.

He expressed concern last year that Bill 57 (the proposed forest act) did not require that wood be purchased from private wood lot owners first and then from public lands only as a last resort. He reported that wood cut from private lots on contract was rotting on the ground while mills procured cheaper wood from public land.

The new Act stipulates that a Wood Marketing Board for wood from public lands will be implemented in 2013. “Our Federation still agrees with the principle but also still questions if the conditions will be there for the Board to draw enough competitive buyers to set fair benchmark prices for wood being cut on public lands, particularly in depressed markets. We are very much afraid that woodlot owners we represent will keep facing unfair competition from the public lands, as they are now.”

The “residuality principle” — which means that access to wood from public land is given to mills once what they can get from primary sources such as private lands has been taken in account — has been kept in the Act but the article that allowed the Minister to enforce ad hoc adjustments to wood allocation on public land twice a year has been dropped. “We feel this is an important weakening regarding the residuality principle enforcement,” notes Dansereau.

Nicolas Mainville, Greenpeace Canada’s specialist in forestry campaigns, outlines what he regards as some of the new Act’s good features. “It abolishes the CAAF [timber supply and forest management agreements] and government takes over all planning and management: As of 2013, Quebec and the regions will decide where, how and when public forests can be logged. Ecosystem-based management (EBM) is part of the Act and should play a central role for future forest practices.”

Greenpeace salutes this essential reform but questions how the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) plans to concretely apply EBM on the ground. “Will EBM become the new “sustainable development”, a great concept that is now profoundly violated by many stakeholders seeking greenwashing?” Mainville wonders.

On the down side, he says, “Protection of forests and creation of protected areas is still excluded from the new Act, thus stopping conservation projects and allocating all the wood for industrial purposes. It briefly refers to the SADF (management strategy) for conservation purposes and joint work with MDDEP (Ministry of Sustainable Development, Environment and Parks), but without concrete tools to make sure that the new Act ensures conservation.

“There is no intact forest protection strategy. The government will allow the destruction of the last virgin areas of our productive forests (about 10-15% of total allocated land),” Mainville continues. Greenpeace considers this as a major failure from MNR and MDDEP.

“The door is open for large scale tree farming, intensive monocultures and other environmentally non-friendly prac- tices within the “intensive forest management” approach. Greenpeace is very preoccupied by the lack of environmental guidelines. Our main concern is that most of the concrete changes are not described in the Act, but will be in the SADF, now under revision.”

Nova Scotia: Adopt integrated resource management

In May, 2010, following community meetings attended by more than 2,000 residents, a resulting Phase One working paper, then feedback from stakeholders, then more paperwork, Nova Scotians finally got their hands on a report intended to re-evaluate the Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) policies on forests, minerals, biodiversity and parks. Phase Two of the DNR strategy process is a report entitled A Natural Balance: Working Toward Nova Scotia’s Natural Resources Strategy. The section on forests contains more than 160 recommendations.

In abbreviated form, these are: adopt a multi-aged forest management paradigm; implement an Integrated Resource Management Program; i.e., promote synergy among multiple uses of Crown land, and possibly some private lands; take a balanced approach between harvesting and ecosystem objectives; encourage stewardship and education initiatives to improve land use; and amend regulations to stop whole tree harvesting and phase out clearcutting. The recommendations also include improving tenure-of-supply arrangements.

Still to come is a strategy based on the Phase Two report, which will guide future DNR policy and program decisions. According to Mike Hutchinson, project coordinator, Federation of Nova Scotia Woodland Owners, the Phase Two report, coming from the three experts tasked to write the recommendations was actually two reports, or viewpoints: one written by two panel members who took an environmental, “change required” angle, the other by the third panel member from an industry, “maintain the status quo because there’s no problem” perspective.

Both viewpoints are compelling and the government is having a “heck of a time” combining them, says Hutchinson. “We do not know how far and in which direction the strategy will go.”

Hutchinson is particularly supportive of some of the final report’s conclusions. “We have to reduce clearcutting. It does not mimic natural disturbances. Right now it is not used as a forester’s tool. It is used as an economic tool to generate wood supply and is being overused. Reducing clearcutting and changing harvesting methods is definitely part of the strategy, but we do not know to what extent.”

In October, Natural Resources Minister John MacDonell announced the province was backing off on its earlier plan to introduce a mandatory licensing system for controlling clearcutting. According to Hutchinson, “The forest industry had been pushing hard on MLAs that they do not want mandatory licensing, saying that it will not work.”

Whole tree harvesting is also under the magnifying glass. “Our soils are not fertile enough for it. I support the banning of industrial whole tree harvesting,” Hutchinson says.

Hutchinson hopes the strategy will include an incentive program for small wood lot owners for developing forest management programs. “What we are encouraging people to do is develop a management plan, documenting ways to achieve your goals, much like a financial plan,” Hutchinson says.

He points to a fundamental problem with forest use that, in his opinion, really should change, but which would take time to correct. “There is no point trying to compete for paper on the world market. When you are competing on a world market where there is cheap labour and fast-growing trees, you are beating a dead horse. Why not look at value-added wood industries? For those of us who are looking at forests for what they will provide, and not what we can make them provide, it is a simp
le choice.”

Ontario: Competitive bidding not fibre allocation

In 2009 the Ministry of Northern Development, Mines and Forestry (MNDMF) released A Proposed Framework To Modernize Ontario’s Forest Tenure and Pricing System, designed to “stimulate discussion on how the forest tenure and pricing system could be improved and updated to support a revitalized forest industry,” according to MNDMF. It was open for comment from April to the end of June this year.

The framework has three main elements: New local forest management corporations (LFMC), would assume responsibility for the management, marketing and competitive sale of wood from Crown land, with the goal to maximize the value of the forests for Ontario. The second element is competitive markets; i.e., selling timber at market prices via competitive processes such as tendered and negotiated sales, rather than relying on government commitments that allocate fibre to individual mills or harvesters. The third element is what MNDMF calls a new revenue model: Each LFMC would be a standalone business whose revenues would come from Crown timber sold from its own management area.

The Framework document implies that the existing pricing, tenure, licensing model is not working. Is this so? “We struggled with that question ourselves. We think the challenge in Ontario is that there has been an underutilization of wood. Somehow the government has suggested that this unused wood means that we need a new tenure system. But the underutilized wood is a sign of the times, not of a flawed system,” says Jamie Lim, president and CEO, Ontario Forest Industries Association (OFIA). “When we went to the town meetings, with the exception of three or four people, there was no support for this Framework.”

OFIA says there is no “dog in the manger” attitude about unused wood in Ontario. Tenure systems are sometimes criticized for this; i.e., tenure holders sitting on their wood while new players cannot get access to any. “OFIA, for the past two years, has put out a position statement that we support putting Ontario’s 26 million cubic metres of industrial wood fibre back to work.”

Lim refers to the Provincial Wood Supply Competition (PWSC) launched in November, 2009, as proof that there is a good system already in place working to allocate wood to companies with viable plans and simultaneously protect the wood supply for mills and plants that have survived the recession and continue to employ Ontarians. “It hit the reset button to open up the underutilized wood supply to competition, but also to protect the wood supply that was allocated and being used,” Lim says.

“There has been a move away from single-entity Sustainable Forest Licenses (SFL) to a more inclusive enhanced shareholder co-op model. This means that wood is not being managed by a single company anymore. We asked government that instead of the Framework, it should finish what it started with the PWSC and accelerate the move from single entity SFLs to enhanced co-ops. We just completed one this summer: the Abitibi River Enhanced Co-op. This ensures that wood is being used in an effective and efficient manner by industry,” Lim says.

The head scratcher, according to Lim, is that the PWSC is already dealing with the concerns voiced in the Framework. The Framework would simply undermine the mills that are still open, because they would continually have to bid and compete for supply. “It is that simple,” Lim says.

Too, Lim explains, OFIA does not want forests run by people with no vested interests. “The Algonquin Forest Corporation, a Crown corporation, has some of the highest fibre costs and significantly higher staffing than any shareholder co-op.”

Scott Jackson, manager, forest policy, OFIA, adds, “We have said that if the government is so convinced that its model is competitively sound, we would tolerate them introducing two pilot programs in areas that lack leadership and economic activity. Run them for five years, take what they have learned, have them independently assessed and compared to the enhanced co-ops. We really think the government should set up the pilot programs, finish the PWSC and support the enhanced co-ops elsewhere on the land base. That would be enough for this province and the tenure system status quo would be changed.”

As for how this process could play out, Lim notes that, “Our members and us have been meeting with government. We are hopeful. We believe that there is an openness to reform tenure by testing these pilot projects against the revised tenure co-ops.”

Regardless of what you call it, the clear direction of these reforms in the East is away from single-company forest licences, toward multi-stakeholder decision-making and integrated resource management. Competitive bidding for wood supply is will soon be the reality for pulp and paper companies in Quebec, and looms on the horizon for Ontario.

PPC


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