A tale of two forests

John Doyle, the auditor general of British Columbia, yesterday released his latest report on B.C.'s forests

  • Feb. 22, 2012 9:00 a.m.

It’s a tale of two realities. We’re just not quite sure if the provincial government’s version of reality is the same one the rest of us reside in.

John Doyle, the auditor general of British Columbia, yesterday released his latest report, An  Audit of the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations’  Management of Timber.

Hot on the heels, literally minutes later, the province released its response. The provincial press release boldly stated: “Ministry is meeting its management goals.” If its goals are to mismanagement the province’s forested land, then the statement is probably correct. Looking at the provincial press release one might come to the conclusion that the province’s braintrust in the ministry of forests, lands, and natural resource operations were reacting to a different report than the one Doyle prepared.

Here’s what Doyle had to say about the government’s treatment of forested land in B.C.

“Industry is legally obligated to reforest the areas it harvests, and it does so,” said Doyle. “But government, which is responsible for over 90 per cent of British Columbia’s forests, and whose reforestation decisions  have a significant impact on our future forests, is not clear about its own commitments.”

The audit found that the ministry has not clearly defined its timber objectives and, as a result, cannot ensure that its management practices are effective. Furthermore, existing management practices are insufficient to offset a trend toward future forests having a lower timber supply and less species diversity in some areas. Finally, the audit found that the ministry does not appropriately monitor and report its timber results against its timber objectives.

“In light of the devastation resulting from such events as mountain pine beetle, the ministry has a window of opportunity to shape our future forests and mitigate the impact with a timely, strategic reforestation plan and cost-effective silviculture,” said Doyle. “To do this, government needs to establish a provincial plan that states its long-term timber  objectives and focuses its resources in order to foster economic stability  and quality of life for British Columbians now and in the future.”

We repeat: “The ministry does not appropriately monitor and report its timber results against its timber objectives.”

But, according to the ministry, it is meeting its timber management goals. The ministry press release goes on to respond to several of the auditor general’s recommendations suggesting that the ministry is already doing what the auditor general is recommending.

It’s a tale of two realities. Which one do you believe … the auditor general or the government?