Decade of cuts and deregulation has left hollowed-out ministry: BCGEU
VANCOUVER, Feb. 16, 2012 /CNW/ - An Auditor General's report on forest management confirms what Forest Ministry workers and B.C. communities have been saying for years - that B.C.'s public forests have been badly mismanaged by the B.C. Liberal government over the past decade, and that massive budget cuts have left the ministry unable to fulfill its mandate, the B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union said today.
"The Auditor General talks about the need to improve stewardship, silviculture, research and oversight," says BCGEU president Darryl Walker. "It's not surprising that these services need immediate attention. These areas have been the hardest hit by budget cuts over the past decade. Over 1,000 staff positions have been cut from the Forest Service since 2001.
"The B.C. Liberal government has dismantled the ministry's research department, gutted its inventory program, and slashed compliance and enforcement staff. Is it any wonder the government no longer has reliable information about the current state of our forests?"
Since 2001, the B.C. Liberal government cut 60 per cent of forest research staff, who were then dispersed to different resource ministries during constant reorganization initiatives. Inventory staff resources have been cut by more than 60 per cent since 2001, with only 39 staff left to cover the entire province.
Compliance and Enforcement has been particularly hard hit by government cuts. Where there were 42 district forestry offices in 2001, there are now only 21. Where up to 70 people worked in these district offices a decade ago, providing valuable oversight on public forest lands, 10 or fewer remain on average. In northeastern B.C., forest service staff are each responsible for an average area of over 232,000 hectares. In stark contrast, there is one Forest Service staff for every 2,666 hectares in the US.
"The Auditor General clearly shows that the ministry has not defined its timber goals, is not clear about its own commitments, and has no real idea how much timber is actually out there to be harvested," says Walker.
"The ministry's response, that everything is fine and going according to plan, suggests a government in deep denial. If this is according to plan, I'd say it's a very bad plan. We need to do much better."
For further information:
contact Chris Bradshaw at 604-291-9611 or 604-369-8411 (cell).