Little to celebrate in B.C. Forest Service centennial

A decade of cuts, deregulation, reorganization leaves shell of ministry

VANCOUVER, Feb. 27, 2012 /CNW/ - A planned celebration at the legislature to mark the centennial of the B.C. Forest Service rings hollow in light of government cuts that have gutted the ministry, the B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union said today.

"There is little to celebrate on this centennial, because the government has largely dismantled the B.C. Forest Service," says BCGEU president Darryl Walker. "Several recent reports confirm what our members have been saying for years, that the ministry can no longer fulfill its public mandate."

Walker pointed to a quote from the 1910 Royal Commission report on forestry which states: "(Forest) policy that vacillates, not because fresh knowledge of forests has been obtained but simply because changes have taken place in politics, can have no value."

"The Auditor General, the Forest Practices Board and the Association of B.C. Forest Professionals have clearly shown the negative impact of more than a decade of cuts, deregulation and reorganization," says Byron Goerz, the chair of the BCGEU Environmental, Technical and Operational Services component. "But what is the B.C. Liberal government's response? Another $20 million funding cut, and a status quo policy that does nothing to address the crisis in B.C. forests."

With more than 70 mills closed and tens of thousands of forest industry jobs vanished, the government continues to sit on its hands while raw log exports jumped more than 160 per cent in the past year, noted Walker.

While the Auditor General warns of the impact of cuts on forest inventory and research, the government's response is to cut funding for inventory even further, to $8.4 million, from an average $15 million. The Association of B.C. Forest Professionals (ABCFP) estimates that foresters are making decisions based on inventory data that is at least 20 to 30 years out of date.

More than a thousand forest ministry jobs have been cut, as the government effectively handed over control of forestry planning and monitoring to the industry itself. The Forest Practices Board warns that the government is no longer able to track forest harvesting and restocking activities, and is "concerned" that industry reports are incomplete, inaccurate or filed late.

"The B.C. Liberal government has left the fox to guard the henhouse, and has washed their hands of responsibility to effectively monitor and enforce forest regulations," says Walker. "This centennial should serve as a wake-up call, that our government is not fulfilling its duty to properly manage our public forests."

SOURCE B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union

For further information:

Chris Bradshaw at 604-369-8411

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B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union

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