northern goshawk chicks in a nest

Northern goshawk chicks in a second growth forest on private land near Comox Lake. Photo credit: Grant Eldridge

It’s been a little over a year since PFLA signed a memorandum of understanding with the Ministry of Forest, Lands and Natural Resource Operations and the Ministry of Environment regarding critical wildlife habitat.

In case you’re not familiar with the term, a memorandum of understanding (MOU) is an agreement that reinforces working relationships and helps establish a framework for information sharing, cooperation and collaboration in matters of mutual interest.

This particular MOU reflects a commitment on behalf of all parties to promote a “made-in-BC” approach to the protection and management of critical wildlife habitat on private managed forest land. More specifically, the MOU sets out to:

  • Increase certainty on regulatory and management requirements for critical wildlife habitat on private managed forest lands
  • Foster innovation
  • Improve information sharing
  • Promote the rigour of BC’s approach to protecting and managing critical wildlife habitat to federal government agencies

Why the MOU is important to forest owners

Increasingly, public demand places pressure on government to demonstrate appropriate steps are being taken to protect endangered species. In the context of an evolving sphere of species at risk protection, the province maintains management of critical wildlife habitat as a provincial priority.

PFLA realizes the necessity of improving awareness, at both the federal and provincial levels, of the contributions landowners already make to critical wildlife habitat. Equally important, is the need to ensure appropriate distinction is made between Crown land and private land.

Rod Bealing explains, “It’s about telling the story of what’s already happening on private land rather than coming up with an idea about how to fix a problem.”

Critical Wildlife Habitat and the PMFL Act

The critical wildlife habitat provisions of the Private Managed Forest Land Act and the Private Managed Forest Land Regulation reflect a commitment forest owners made to work with government; to enter into agreements for the protection of critical wildlife habitat on private managed forest land if necessary.

The policy intent in British Columbia is a two-step process:

  1. If a species is deemed threatened or endangered there is a structure in place that compels the Crown to look for critical wildlife habitat on Crown land first.
  2. If it’s determined the only land available for the survival of that species is on private land, then the Crown has a duty to reach an agreement with the landowner that provides some measure of compensation for any land use interruption, modified practices or deferred harvesting.

A Positive Step for Forest Owners 

To date, the MOU process and associated working group is a productive, engaging and positive experience for forest owners. Landowners are working with government in an ongoing, healthy dialogue about what’s best for the creatures, how to meet their habit needs and how to balance the needs of the creatures with the needs of forest owners, the province and communities.

Opportunities for Improvement

In terms of tangible outcomes, we hope to identify opportunities for improvement at the landscape level with increased cooperation and information sharing between owners, as well as between owners and government. We also hope to identify practices to improve habitat value at the stand level—practical measures to help raise awareness about these creatures and their habitat needs.

Please contact us with any questions, concerns or feedback.