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.