Policy & Legislation

BC Assessment & Managed Forest Land

Tina Ireland photo

Tina Ireland, Director, Property Owners, BC Assessment

A big PFLA thanks to Tina Ireland, Director, Property Owners with BC Assessment for her presentation at the PFLA annual conference, June 4, 2015 in Courtenay, BC.

For those of you who couldn’t join us, you can see Tina’s presentation slides below. To enlarge the presentation click on the white box with the arrows in the bottom right corner and then use the arrows in the centre to scroll through the presentation.

The PowerPoint slides include:

  • a brief history of BC Assessment
  • information about the annual assessment roll
  • key dates for assessment
  • list of property classifications
  • highlights from the 2015 assessment roll
  • facts about managed forest classification
  • information about the managed forest application process
  • details about bare land rate and cut timber rate calculations for managed forest land

 

Thanks again to Tina Ireland for the presentation. While not included in the slides, the issue of grandfathering was also discussed.

Tina Ireland explained, “When the Act changed in 2004 there was an understanding that any properties that didn’t meet the new qualifications would remain in Managed Forest classification. However, if a property is sold, and the new owner doesn’t meet the new regulations, then they are no longer eligible for Managed Forest classification.”

To date, the practice has been that BC Assessment won’t remove people from Managed Forest classification if the property is being handed down within the family, but this practice is currently under review. Tina is not saying there will be changes, but she’s letting the group know the practice is under review.

Robbie Preston highlighted some concerns for forest owners engaged in estate planning and managing their affairs. He encouraged any clarity BC Assessment can offer on the subject. He also suggested some printed guidelines would go a long way to helping forest owners plan for themselves and their family’s futures.

Tina confirmed the goal of the review process is to provide clarity for both forest owners and BC Assessment. The review is underway now, and answers are expected by fall 2015. Tina emphasized she doesn’t foresee any changes, but if changes arise that significantly effect forest owners there will be a consultation process with the community before any changes are finalized.

If you have any comments or feedback you can reach BC Assessment by phone at:  1-866-valueBC (1-866-825-8322) Ext. 00225 or by email at: managedforest@bcassessment.ca

PFLA on the SLA and Other News from Ottawa

yogis on Parliament Hill Early in May 2015, PFLA hopped a plane to Ottawa and joined other landowners from across the country to meet with federal MPs about legislation relevant to the stewardship of private land.

PFLA executive director, Rod Bealing, describes the mission like this: “If we want to educate people about what’s happening on private land to protect endangered species, we have to step out and make the effort. Put our fancy trousers on, wash our faces, comb our hair, find a tie that matches the shirt and knock on doors.”

In the course of three days, we shuffled through security screenings about 700 times—emptied our pockets, lifted our pant legs—rushed past hundreds of yogis practicing sun salutations on the east lawn of Parliament Hill, while hundreds of other brightly clad Canadians gathered on the west lawn to celebrate the upcoming 16th World Falun Dafa Day. Oh, it’s a great country.

Amongst the hustle and bustle of Ottawa, we managed to meet with an impressive number of government staff members and elected officials of all persuasions. Rod Bealing explains, “As an association, we’re a-political. For us, it’s not about the politician; it’s about the policy. We’ll talk to anyone who will listen.”

This wasn’t our first trip to Ottawa. Thanks to Chris Lee, and the organizing efforts of the Canadian Association of Forest Owners, we’ve developed some tried and true strategies for making the most of our time there.

This trip, a team of 12 of us split into groups of 3 to cover as much ground as possible. We had breakfast meetings, lunch meetings, dinner meetings, debrief meetings, debriefs of the debrief meetings, and more meetings.

Our primary goal was to talk about birds and creatures.

We met with:

  • The minister and the deputy minister of Environment Canada
  • The deputy minister of Natural Resources Canada
  • Liberal party critic for Natural Resources Canada
  • MP for Tobique-Mactaquac (New Brunswick)
  • Policy advisors to the Prime Minister’s Office
  • Liberal party critic for Environment Canada
  • Chair of the Conservative Forestry Caucus
  • Chair of the Conservative Hunting and Angling Caucus
  • Assistant Secretary to the Cabinet, Economic and Regional Development Policy at the Privy Council Office (PCO)
  • CEO of Parks Canada
  • Deputy Leader, Green Party of Canada
  • The office of the leader of the official opposition
  • Chief Government Whip
  • MP for Nanaimo-Cowichan

Meeting topics included:

  • Species at Risk
  • Migratory Bird Convention Act
  • Conservation agreements
  • Incidental take
  • Marbled Murrelet
  • The role of forest management in protecting species and habitat

Our secondary goal this trip to Ottawa was to talk about international trade.

We met with Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade & Development Canada (DFATD) staff to ensure the federal government is fully aware of the significant log surplus on the BC coast and the fact that federal log export restrictions (in the form of Notice 102—the surplus test for federally regulated private land) are being used entirely to suppress domestic log prices and subsidise domestic sawmills.

Despite decades of protest from private landowners, and mounting financial damages to tree growers, Canada’s track record on positive private land log export policy change remains poor. For the purpose of this mission, PFLA advocated administrative changes that won’t impact the policy, but might grant forest owners some relief from red tape, unnecessary delays and redundant process requirements.

Anything new to report from Ottawa?

First of all, a big thanks to everyone who made time to meet with us in Ottawa.

Our main goal, as usual, was to encourage recognition and distinction for private land and promote the CAFO two-step — an approach that distinguishes between private and public land when identifying and protecting critical habitat by first looking to public land (parks and protected areas) to achieve policy objectives.

We’re encouraged to report growing acceptance. People, across parties and politics, accept that recognition, respect and distinction for private property is reasonable, desirable even.

The most interesting thing we learned in Ottawa?

Oddly enough, while PFLA was in Ottawa primarily to talk about birds and creatures, most people we met with assumed we’d come to Ottawa to talk about the Softwood Lumber Agreement (SLA).

Because the subject of upcoming softwood lumber negotiations seems to be on the top of people’s minds and agendas, we’ll take a few moments to clarify our position.

If PFLA did go to Ottawa to talk about SLA, here’s what we’d say:

A strong voice from the Canadian sawmilling sector is encouraging government to push hard for a roll over of the present softwood lumber agreement. While that might be good for sawmills (yay sawmills!), it’s not necessarily in the best interest of BC’s private tree growers, or Canadians across the country.

We think the upcoming softwood lumber negotiations could exert external pressure and present an excellent opportunity for both provincial and federal governments to review existing policies, examine practices, generally get their house in order, and minimize tensions with our largest trading partner.

Competition only makes us stronger.

In parts of Canada (including the southern interior of BC) where there is more aggressive competition for available fibre, mills have found ways to get the best value from the resource by investing and specializing in niche products. In these areas there is healthy two-way international log trade across the border. Mills have been forced to reinvent their business models; moving away from a cyclical dependency on cheap logs and commodity lumber markets toward higher value products and markets.

What’s different on the BC coast? When artificial trade barriers don’t exist, and competition thrives, the right log goes to the right mill, and the best use of the resource ensures best value for the log and more value at every step of the supply chain. More value for responsible stewardship, better return on investment, better stumpage revenues for government and forest owners, and more economic activity. Win, win, win. Imagine that?

Why Fair Timber Pricing is a Top Priority in 2015

priorityFair timber pricing is a top priority for PFLA in 2015 because not only are we continuing to see negative impacts from harmful and outdated policies, but on-the-ground impacts are also getting worse.

In 2014, forest owners lost over 45 million dollars as a result of log export restrictions. That’s 45 million dollars directly transferred from the people who grew the trees to the people who bought the trees at a discount.

PFLA members are committed stewards and reliable forest owners who take seriously our responsibilities to customers, suppliers, employees, neighbours, communities, governments and the environment. We value the principles of equity, fairness and justice and the role they play in encouraging long-term investment in future crops.

Because we’re tired of spending decades to grow the best trees we can, only to be ripped off by an artificially low domestic log market, PFLA’s key goals for 2015 include:

  • Access to international pricing for forest owners
  • Eliminate unnecessary process, delays, uncertainty and administrative costs
  • Ensure B.C.’s private forest owners have input into any policy decision
  • Support transitional measures necessary to accomplish these broader goals

We’re turning up the heat and look forward to cooking up some interesting articles we hope will contribute to enriched discussion, informed debate and positive change for tree growers in B.C.

Here are just a few of the upcoming stories we’re working on so far.

Land of Plenty: Log Supply on the B.C. Coast

A scintillating look at the connection between fibre supply and consumption on the coast of British Columbia, this article aims to debunk long-held assumptions and reiterate the importance of recognizing this is an economic problem, not a fibre supply problem.

In 2013, the coastal harvest was 20.8 million m3 and coastal mills processed 12 million m3. In other words, a huge log surplus exists.

The Top 5 Lame Excuses For Maintaining N102

With an overwhelming supply of lame excuses, the competition for this article is above average. We’ll do our best to narrow the options down to five and look forward to providing readers with a detailed look at just how lame some of the excuses for not rescinding Federal Notice to Exporters 102 are.

Why Suck and Blow is Bad For British Columbia

Not to be confused with the drinking game, the term suck and blow is a colloquialism used to describe a policy change being advocated by a handful of licensees in B.C. who also own processing facilities.

The current surplus test policy allows owners of processing facilities to block export permit applications; however, if you have a processing facility and you’re exporting logs, there’s a rule which prohibits you from blocking others for ninety days after you’ve exported your logs. Suck and blow proponents are advocating for the removal of the ninety-day rule.

This might also be referred to as having your cake and eating it too. We look forward to elaborating on this concept and illustrating just why it’s a bad idea for B.C.

13 Reasons Why it’s Better to Grow a Tree in Washington than B.C.

A tale of two trees, this article traces the details of the life of a tree grown on private forest land in British Columbia, as compared to the life of the same tree species grown from the same seed orchard and harvested just a short distance over the 49th parallel in Washington state.

A poignant tale of growth, strength and adversity the article illustrates how trees grown in Washington receive more respect, higher value, and arguably, a better life.

Dysfunctional Relationships: What Log and Lumber Prices on the B.C. Coast Can Teach You About Your Own Life

A thoughtful analysis of the relationship between log and lumber prices on the B.C. coast, this article offers readers a rare opportunity to reflect on the significance of maintaining connected relationships in their own lives.

Using graphics to illustrate the disconnect between lumber and log prices, this cutting-edge look argues that the distance, disrespect and disharmony demonstrated by log and lumber prices can have devastating implications for relationships, families and communities.

A couple of other working titles, slightly less developed, but equally important, include:

  • How Cheap Stumpage and LERs Stimulate Sawmill Investment (in other countries)
  • The Haida Gwaii Surplus Declaration: Huh?

As always, thanks for your interest and your patience. Please stay tuned as we work hard to pull these articles together.

PFLA Policy Update — December 2014

UpdatePFLA spends a lot of our time diligently engaged on a number of important policy files relevant to forest owners across the province.

We make every effort to maintain regular communications with elected officials, public servants, and community members to ensure the perspective of private forest owners is understood at all levels of the policy making process.

As 2014 comes to a close, here’s an update to keep you informed about five important policy areas we’re working on right now.

1. Fair Log Pricing / Log Export Restrictions

PFLA continues to focus considerable attention and effort on the Fair Log Pricing (or lack thereof) file. Sadly, the situation for B.C.’s forest owners is continuing to deteriorate.

BC mills profit from and are directly subsidized by their ability to threaten to use the Notice 102 surplus test to disrupt business and block log export permit applications. All indicators demonstrate there has been considerable improvement in the market for manufactured forest products. Since 2013 there has been a continued improvement in lumber and veneer prices and Crown land licencees are enjoying record high profits.

Unfortunately, while the export of public land logs has increased to new all-time high record volumes, private landowners are still being required to endure the process costs and loss of value from forced domestic log sales due to the Notice 102 surplus test

The threat of domestic buyers blocking export permit applications, and the associated severe business disruption is sufficient to force private tree growers to accept aggressive, low price offers for whatever volumes and types of logs are wanted by the domestic mills.

This type of predatory behavior, currently sanctioned by both the BC and federal government, is happening on an ongoing basis, and makes it impossible for private forest operations to obtain fair prices for our product.

Further potential risk is looming as some BC Crown licencees with mills are of the opinion that it would be acceptable for them to enjoy the higher international prices and profits from freely exporting public land logs while maintaining their ability to buy BC logs at the suppressed domestic prices using the current flawed surplus testing rules. This type of offensive ‘suck and blow’ provision would have the effect of significantly inflating profits and stock values for public land licencees with mills, and could have an adverse impact on every forest operation, both Crown and private, that does not own a mill.

PFLA takes the position that, unlike Crown land licences that were issued by government for the purpose of attracting and supporting domestic mill investment and log processing, federally-regulated private land was granted at least half a century earlier, with the deliberately intended ability to export and obtain international log prices.

This file continues to be a source of frustration, and we’re constantly engaged with Ottawa and the province to achieve some distinction for our private lands.

PFLA is consistently delivering the message that subsidies inherent in the BC’s log export restrictions and log pricing policies are part of the reason why the coastal milling sector has become, and remains, globally uncompetitive, and that the ability for private forest operations to obtain fair log prices should be fully restored.

2. The Canada and U.S. Softwood Lumber Agreement

The Canada and U.S. Softwood Lumber Agreement comes up for renewal in October 2015. As an important part of the forest industry, generating around 10% of the log supply, BC’s private forest owners need to be included in this discussion.

In previous rounds of SLA discussions the U.S. raised concern that private land log exports in British Columbia confer a direct subsidy to sawmills. Part of the language in previous softwood lumber discussions explored provisions that lumber from mills where international prices were paid for logs would be admitted into the U.S. without having to go through quotas or be subject to any duties. In other words, the U.S. was willing to treat lumber derived from private land logs differently.

With a substantial BC coast log surplus, and lack of a valid timber supply rationale for maintaining private land log export restrictions, one justification used by government for maintaining N102 is the possibility of using it as a bargaining chip in the softwood lumber negotiations. If that turns out to be the trigger that puts N102 back on the table, and might lead to N102 being recognized as part of a direct subsidy to Canadian lumber production, and N102 being rescinded, we very much look forward to being a part of that discussion.

3. Species at Risk Act

The northern goshawk draft recovery plan is under development. PFLA is expecting to see a copy of the plan soon. The recovery plan for the marbled murrelet is also underway with similar potentially negative consequences for forest owners and land managers:

  • Diminished land value
  • Loss of operational freedom
  • Regulatory takings without appropriate compensation

PFLA is working tirelessly with the Canadian Association of Forest Owners (CAFO), the farming community, other landowners and land managers across B.C. and Canada to make sure landowners are recognized for existing measures being taken to protect these species.

As a group, we’re also advocating for the recognition of private land when government seeks to identify critical wildlife habitat.

In BC and New Brunswick, when seeking to identify land necessary for the survival or recovery of an endangered species, provincial governments are required to review public lands first. If private land is identified, it’s necessary for government to work with the owner to reach an agreement.

Although not clearly articulated in federal policy yet, it is reassuring to note that clear distinction was made between private land and public land under SARA in the case of the Sage Grouse.

Another challenge inherent in SARA is the focus on individual species. Creating recovery strategies for individual species results in a high probability that recovery plans, objectives and strategies will overlap, or worse yet, conflict with each other.

PFLA is working with farmers, CAFO, crown land operators and others to encourage government to work with land managers to develop stewardship agreements that will benefit multiple species.

4. Water Sustainability Act

PFLA has been in discussion with the provincial Ministry of Environment regarding the Water Sustainability Act. Our goal, again, is to ensure existing regulatory and non-regulatory measures taken by forest owners to protect water quality are recognized.

Unfortunately, some of the language related to the legislation referring to local involvement has led some local groups to assume more opportunities for direct local governance and control of land use and management practices. PFLA is working with government to ensure the current policy of land use and water as a provincial priority is maintained.

PFLA takes an “if it ain’t broke, don’t ix it” view. To withdraw strong and effective provincial laws, programs and oversight, and delegate that authority and responsibility to local government, would place a severe burden on local government and cause uncertainty, chaos and disruption in the resource management sector across BC.

5. Property Taxation

PFLA continues to focus attention on ensuring B.C. has a globally competitive taxation model. Certainty and confidence are necessary to encourage investment in growing and harvesting trees for the future.

Forest owners pay more in property tax on coastal private land than Crown land licensees pay for the right to harvest public timber.

You’ll be receiving your property assessments in the new year. Be vigilant. Make sure your property assessment is appropriate and be prepared to appeal the assessment if it isn’t. You have a month to register if you intend to appeal.

Talk to PFLA; let us know if we can help with anything.

Eligibility and succession planning within the Managed Forest Program is another area we continue to work on with the Managed Forest Council to obtain better policy transparency and clarity.

Historic Meeting for Canada’s Private Landowners

Private Land MapOn November 20th, 2014 PFLA packed our long underwear and hopped a plane to join the Canadian Association of Forest Owners (CAFO) in Ottawa to help educate the federal government about what’s happening on private land across Canada to protect endangered species.

The meeting was a historic event because, as far as we’re aware, this is the first time in history owners and managers of private land—large and small, west coast to east coast and all stops in between—have come together to present a united voice in Ottawa.

Chicken farmers, bison ranchers, grain growers, cattle and beef producers, maple syrup makers, and log and lumber manufacturers all came together to express common concerns about the impact government regulations can have on the viability and value of their diverse operations.

In total, the group represented managers and owners of about 90 percent of Canada’s private land—an estimated 2 million individuals and their families.

Despite obvious differences within the group there was universal recognition of the benefits inherent in working together and the importance of letting people know the contributions private landowners make to generate revenue, create jobs and protect the environment and ecosystems.

The focus of the meeting was to encourage caucus to support CAFO’s two-step proposal to distinguish between Crown and private land when designating critical wildlife habitat.

According to CAFO executive director, Chris Lee, the meeting was a success, “Caucus members realized the tremendous positive reaction they would generate from rural Canada if they adopt our proposal to first identify habitat on public land and then, if needed, on private land with the knowledge and consent of the owner.”

What is the CAFO Two-Step?

The CAFO two-step is a process proposed by the Canadian Association of Forest Owners to amend the Species at Risk Act (SARA) to clearly distinguish between private and public land when identifying and protecting critical habitat.

Step 1: Find and protect critical habitat on public land first. CAFO suggests the following order of priorities: parks and protected areas, inaccessible and vacant Crown lands, and finally, Crown lands under management license. If, based on credible information, there is inadequate Crown land available to maintain a viable population of the listed species, proceed to Step 2.

Step 2: Engage in consultation with private landowners to determine how to protect critical habitat on private lands with minimal disruption to farming, forest management activities and annual income levels. Note: A decision to designate or protect critical habitat on private land should not lead to automatic prohibitions, but rather, trigger a process of consultation between the recovery team, the federal agency and the landowner(s). [SARA s48(3)]

Why is the CAFO Two-Step Important?

In the U.S. the Endangered Species Act failed because it lacked incentives for land managers. Without incentives to report and protect creatures land managers are more likely to “shoot, shovel and shut up.”

Our message to the federal government is: landowners are willing partners in species habitat protection. Nobody knows their land better than they do. If you create a situation with incentives for land managers you’re going to get a much better outcome.

In comparison, let’s say you’re a private landowner and the community decides it needs to use some of your property to build a highway. Commonly, an expropriation process occurs and you receive compensation for the value of your land.

The situation with wildlife habitat is no different. If the broader community decides your land is more important as habitat for a particular species, and requires you to set aside a portion of your land for that species, you should be compensated just like the landowner who set aside land to build a highway.

Please visit the CAFO website for more information on the CAFO Two-Step and stay-tuned for more information on the progress in Ottawa.

Council Has A New Name: Managed Forest Council

Managed Forest Council logoFor those of you who haven’t already heard, as of September 2014 the Private Managed Forest Land Council is now the Managed Forest Council.

The name change reflects recommendations from a communication strategy completed by the Council in 2013.

Rod Davis, Council Chair, explains: “As an organization our goal is to address the issues outlined within our communication strategy in a much more comprehensive manner. It’s important Council promotes the benefits of sustainable forestry and demonstrates how the performance-based management of privately owned forest lands support and uphold the economic, social and environmental values of local communities.”

While we’re on the subject, it’s worth reminding readers: we are the Private Forest Landowners Association (PFLA). Our role is to advocate on behalf or forest owners across the province.

The Managed Forest Council (MFC) is the regulatory body. Their role is to administer the forest practices component of the Managed Forest Program on behalf of the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations. Council’s four broad functions include:

  1. Strategic planning, reporting and program administration
  2. Set and monitor forest practice standards
  3. Enforce standards and perform audits
  4. Review landowner applications to enter the Managed Forest Class

For more information about the Managed Forest Council and their new identity, please visit their website or contact them directly.

Watersheds, Local Government and Managed Forest Land

McGarrigle Creek, Mt BensonOver the past few months, PFLA has been involved in a series of meetings with the Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) and the Association of Vancouver Island Coastal Communities (AVICC). The meetings are multi-agency, multi-stakeholder events.

PFLA’s involvement is intended to help local government better understand the managed forest regulatory model, as well as the practices, relationships and programs private forest owners have in place to protect water on their land.

Councillor Solda, Director Marcotte, Councillor Price and Chair Stanhope attended on behalf of the AVICC.

Other participants included local government representatives:

  • Mayor Baird and Sundance Topham from Cumberland
  • Campbell River’s Water Supervisor, Nathalie Vaiu
  • Comox’s Senior Manager of Engineering Mark Rutten
  • Nanaimo Regional District’s CAO Paul Thorkelson

Along with representatives from:

  • Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations
  • Managed Forest Council
  • Private Forest Landowners Association
  • TimberWest
  • Island Timberlands
  • Ministry of Environment
  • Vancouver Island Health Authority

The good news is the meetings are productive. We’ve seen assumptions and assertions dissolve in the face of facts and information about the level of care and attention that goes into managing and monitoring watersheds on private forestland.

The minutes from the last AVICC meeting in October include support for the development of a terms of reference for a small working stakeholder group — with representatives from VIHA, Ministry of Forests, Lands and Resource Operations, UBCM, AVICC, Private Forest Landowners Association and the Managed Forest Council — that could be pulled together to address local or regional concerns as needed.

The Managed Forest Council is also invited to submit a presentation proposal for the 2015 AVICC Convention in Courtenay, BC — April 10-12, 2015.

PFLA is pleased to add this stakeholder group to the already long list of watershed groups our members are involved with, including:

  • San Juan Stewardship Roundtable
  • Cowichan River Stewardship Roundtable
  • Cowichan Watershed Board
  • Cowichan VRD Regional Watershed Governance
  • Shawnigan Basin Society/Shawnigan Watershed Roundtable
  • Nanaimo River Watershed Roundtable
  • Englishman River Steering Committee (led by Mid Vancouver Island Habitat Society)
  • Regional District of Nanaimo Drinking Water and Watershed Protection Program, in particular the watershed monitoring and school education programs
  • Comox Lake Watershed Advisory Group
  • Campbell River Technical Watershed Committee