In British Columbia more than 30 acts and regulations govern management activities on private forest land. As a private forest owner, that’s a lot of legislation to be aware of when you’re planning your management activities. To help you out, we summarized some highlights from our new favourite resource, Managing Your Woodland: A Non-forester’s Guide to Small-scale Forestry in British Columbia.

Most important points to remember about legislation and your land:

  • It’s your responsibility to know what legislation and regulations apply to you and your land before you commence any management activities.
  • Laws are dynamic and always evolving. Make sure to educate and update yourself regularly.
  • Contact your local government agencies, or representatives from your regional district or municipality, if you’re unsure about which laws apply to you.

What’s the difference between federal and provincial legislation?

Federal legislation generally applies to federal Crown land, First Nations Reserves, provincial Crown land and in certain circumstances private land. Federal legislation covers inter-jurisdictional issues such as:

  • Species at risk
  • Navigable waters and fisheries
  • Exports and imports
  • Transportation of dangerous goods
  • Taxation

Provincial legislation generally distinguishes between private land and Crown land, and between private land that is in the Managed Forest Program and land that is not. Provincial legislation covers a range of topics including:

  • Environmental standards
  • Forest management
  • Fisheries and wildlife
  • Employment standards
  • Workplace safety
  • Assessment and taxation

Examples of Federal Legislation

Canadian Environmental Assessment
Applies to harvesting on First Nations Reserve lands and may apply if the federal government has any involvement with management (e.g. by providing financial assistance or providing permits or approvals).

Export and Import Permits Act
Export permits are administered by the Export Control Division of the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. The division provides assistance to exporters to determine if export permits are required. Not all private land is equal in this regard so you need to make sure the timber from your land is exportable.

Explosives Act and Regulation
Controls the storage and handling of explosives, which you might need if you plan to build your woodland road through rock, or to develop a rock pit for ballasting material.

Fisheries Act
Most woodland managers need to consider how to operate around fish habitat:

  • Streams
  • Lakes
  • Wetlands
  • Fisheries sensitive zones (seasonally flooded areas that are important as temporary retreat for some fish species).

The Fisheries Act prohibits, in section 35, any work or undertaking that results in the harmful alteration, disruption or destruction of fish habitat. It’s best to get the advice of federal and provincial fisheries officials before you fell trees or cross streams. There are practices you can use to avoid or minimize logging impacts on fish habitat.

Migratory Birds Convention Act 
Section 6(a) of the Migratory Bird Regulations makes it an offence to disturb, destroy or take a nest or egg of a migratory bird without a permit. This legislation can have implications for the timing of your woodland operations during nesting season.

Pest Control Products Act
Addresses the labeling and use of pesticides and is supplemented by the provincial Integrated Pest Management Act, which specifies detailed requirements for the use of pesticides.

Plant Protection Act 
The purpose of this Act is to protect plant life and the agricultural and forestry sectors of the Canadian economy by preventing the spread of pests. Landowners who import exotic seeds or plant materials need to be aware of this legislation. If a forest becomes infested with certain insect pests the Plant Protection Act also allows the government to order necessary action to control an outbreak or infestation.

Species at Risk Act
The Species at Risk Act defines the process of listing species at risk and protecting critical habitat of those species on Crown and private land. This legislation is relatively new and untested and the question regarding how landowners who happen to have critical habitat on their property are to be compensated is not entirely clear.

Examples of Provincial Legislation

Assessment Act 
Provides for taxation assessment classes (e.g., Managed Forest Land) and the applicable framework for forest management on untenured private land, including the requirement for a management plan.

Forest Act
The Forest Act applies primarily to Crown land and is largely not applicable to private land; however some provisions may apply. For example, the Forest Act establishes the requirement of timber marking and scaling for Crown and private land timber. The Timber Marking and Transportation Regulation further clarifies the responsibility for accurate completion, retention and submission of transportation documents. Contact your district office to apply for a timber mark for your woodland. The staff can also provide you with details on marking, transportation, scaling and documentation requirements.

Forest and Range Practices Act
The Forest and Range Practices Act and its regulations primarily govern the activities of forest and range licensees on public land in B.C. The statute sets the requirements for planning, road building, logging, reforestation, and grazing.

Transportation Act
When constructing road access to develop new harvesting areas in your woodland you’re required to get a permit from the Ministry of Transportation for each new junction with a public road. The permit for access to highways is issued under the Transportation Act and specifies what signs are to be installed, what kind of culvert to be used for crossing the highway ditch, maximum axle weight of logging trucks on public highways and seasonal or permanent load restrictions on certain routes. Contact your local Ministry of Transportation office for more information regarding local restrictions.

Trespass Act
This legislation is important to protect your woodland from illegal firewood cutters, vandalism and theft of wood or non-timber first products. Your land needs to be fenced, or surrounded by a natural boundary or signs prohibiting trespass need to be posted at each ordinary access, in order to count as ‘enclosed land’. Someone entering without your permission is trespassing. You have the right to demand the name and address from trespassers.

Water Act
Persons making changes in or about streams must ensure no substance, sediment, debris or material that could adversely impact the stream is allowed to enter the stream. You must also ensure no unauthorized disturbance or removal of stable natural material and vegetation that contribute to stream channel stability. The Water Act also legislates the process for obtaining water licences.

Wildlife Act
The Wildlife Act prohibits you from disturbing or destroying a muskrat or beaver den unless you have a permit. The nests of specified large raptors are also protected, including:

  • Eagles
  • Peregrine falcons
  • Gyrfalcons
  • Ospreys
  • Herons
  • Burrowing owl

What about municipal legislation?

Local municipalities and regional districts sometimes pass bylaws that regulate tree cutting on land that is not regulated by the Private Managed Forest Land Act. Often you’ll need a development permit before you start harvesting or modifying your land if you are located within a particular area. In some cases, covenants held by local land trusts can prohibit all or some harvesting. It’s your obligation to find out which laws govern your woodland. Contact your local municipality, regional district or land trust for specific information.