Northern GoshawkPFLA spends a big chunk 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, bureaucrats, ministry staff and community members to ensure the perspective of private forest owners is heard and understood at all levels of the policy making process.

Here’s a brief update to keep you informed about five important policy areas we’re working on right now.

1. Migratory Birds Convention Act and Regulations

Environment Canada is responsible for implementing the Migratory Birds Convention Act and Regulations. The legislation, introduced around the turn of last century, was originally intended to preserve stocks of ‘meat birds’. Today, it presents a tricky challenge for Canadians as it prohibits the ‘taking’ of migratory birds, of which there are now over five hundred listed. Recent pressure has been placed on government to pursue the letter of the law rather than the intent.

The definition of a migratory bird includes birds, fledglings, eggs, nests — both occupied and unoccupied. All resource-related activities in Canada encounter some aspect of this migratory bird definition — from farming to hydro reservoirs to windmills to forestry, not to mention moving vehicles, tall buildings and household cats. In other words, this is a national problem not confined to forest management. In fact, forest management is comparatively benign because we disturb our land infrequently, and by maintaining forest cover we actually create and maintain bird habitat. However, pressure from environmental groups has kept government’s focus on forestry.

In response to these pressures, Environment Canada continues to develop what they refer to as “better management practices” for operators to follow. They’re also compiling a database of nesting seasons for various birds. As the process stands now, Environment Canada will make this information available and landowners are expected to manage their operations accordingly. The implications of this approach could mean extended curtailment periods for all resource management activities during nesting season. This could have significant impacts for multiple industries.

PFLA is engaged in this process to ensure government recognizes responsible forest stewardship has a relatively minor and temporary impact on birds, and understands the implications of onerous and unnecessary regulations for forest owners. We’re proud that our land, and the way we manage it, supports biodiversity, but we expect to be recognized for our conservation efforts, and treated with respect and fairness if it’s deemed necessary to restrict private property in order to protect a public resource.

2. Species at Risk Act

Parks Canada is in the process of developing a recovery plan for the Northern Goshawk, a raptor identified as threatened by the Committee On the Status of Endangered Species in Canada (COSEWIC). PFLA and the Canadian Association of Forest Owners (CAFO) are engaged in this process to ensure government is aware of, and takes into account, the extent to which Northern Goshawks are thriving in managed second-growth forests, and the voluntary measures forest owners already take to protect these birds and their habitat.

PFLA is urging Parks Canada to make time in the recovery planning process to incorporate the best available science and to get out into the field and learn more about how Northern Goshawks have adapted to second-growth managed forests. In fact, PFLA is organizing a field tour in July to show federal agency staff and other interested stakeholders firsthand the habitat situation for Northern Goshawks on private forest land.

3. Private Managed Forest Land Act — Critical Wildlife Habitat — MoU

All private managed forest land in B.C. is subject to the critical wildlife habitat provisions of the Private Managed Forest Land Act and regulations.

The basic policy principle is this: when habitat required for the survival of a species cannot be provided by public land, government has the option to make arrangements with landowners to protect critical wildlife habitat that exists on private land.

These regulatory provisions were initially established in 2000. Despite the best management practices and certification-driven work owners do to identify, study, monitor and protect listed species, to date, the provincial government has not found it necessary to designate critical wildlife habitat on private managed forest land.

Even with positive outcomes for the listed species, forest owners were concerned the federal Species At Risk Act review process wasn’t recognizing their voluntary efforts. The B.C. government wanted to demonstrate that B.C. adequately cares for endangered wildlife. Since early 2013, PFLA and the province have worked together to address these concerns, and recently, a Memorandum of Understanding was drawn up and signed to guide the way forward.

PFLA members are very proud of their track record in protecting endangered species and we look forward to working cooperatively with government on this initiative.

4. Firefighting Cost Sharing Agreement

The Wildfire Management Branch has made some changes to the pricing structure of the firefighting cost sharing agreement. Not all of these changes were welcome, particularly the significant interior rate increases. PFLA is engaged with government and staff at the Protection Branch to advocate on behalf of owners.

5. Open Burning Smoke Control Regulation

The Ministry of Environment continues to develop regulation intended to address public health risks from smoke. Part of the policy intention is to reduce the amount of smoke hazard related to open burning – including prescribed burns on managed forest lands.

Prescribed fire is an important tool for forest health and minimizing wildfire risk. Alternatives to using well-planned and well-implemented prescribed burning practices are expensive and ineffective, and increase the potential for reduced forest health and catastrophic wildfires that threaten forests, lives and communities.

Because a large portion of B.C.’s private managed forest lands are located close to communities, forest owners are at risk of being effected by policy changes. PFLA is working with the B.C. government and allied associations in an effort to ensure common sense prevails.

As always, thanks for your interest. Please let us know if you have any questions, concerns or feedback.