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Two-thirds of British Columbia’s land base - 60 million hectares - is forested and more than 90 per cent is publicly owned. Forest activities on public land must follow strict forest management laws. About 96 per cent of the forested land is coniferous, giving British Columbia approximately half of the national softwood inventory.

British Columbia's topography and climate divides the province into two distinct forest regions: the coast and interior. Coastal forests contain more hemlock than any other species, while lodgepole pine and spruce are the major interior species.

In 2009, the timber scaled was nearly 49 million cubic metres. Coastal forests provided approximately 30 per cent of the harvest while about 70 per cent came from the interior.

Softwood (coniferous) products such as lumber, pulp, newsprint, paper products, and shingles and shakes are in demand throughout the world.

Timber Scaled by Species - 2009 (million cubic meters)
Species
Volume
%
Lodgepole pine
24.8
50.9
Spruce
6.8
13.9
Hemlock
4.3
8.9
Douglas Fir
5.4
11.0
Balsam
3.0
6.2
Cedar
2.7
5.6
Other species
1.8
3.6
Total Scaled Harvest
48.8
100.0
Source: Ministry of Forests and Range, BC Financial & Economic Review

Forest Product Exports - 2009
Commodity
$Millions
%
Lumber (softwood)
2,749
36.2
Pulp
2,056
27.0
Paper and paperboard
1,057
13.9
Selected value-added wood products
364
4.8
Other panel products
287
3.8
Newsprint
207
2.7
Plywood and veneer (softwood)
115
1.5
Cedar shakes and shingles
134
1.8
Other
634
8.3
Total Forest Product Exports
7,603
100.0
Source: Exports (BC Origin), BC Stats & Statistics Canada

Output of Forest-based Products - 2008/2009
Product
2008
2009
Lumber (million cubic metres)
2.8
2.3
Pulp (million tonnes)
4.0
3.7
Newsprint, paper and paperboard (million tonnes)
2.5
2.0
Source: Canada Pulp & Paper Assoc. and Statistics Canada

British Columbia's forest industries recorded factory shipments of $9.1 billion in 2009, or 28 per cent of total provincial manufacturing shipments.

For management purposes, the forest resource is divided into units known as timber supply areas and tree farm licenses. Timber harvesting in these units is delegated to private operators under a variety of licensing agreements.

Non-timber uses of British Columbia’s forest lands, such as for range and grazing, recreation, watershed protection, wildlife habitat and visual enjoyment, are part of a continuing emphasis by the provincial government on integrated resources management.

Recreational use of forest and wilderness area is an important component of the tourism industry. Forest land generates revenue from cattle-grazing and community watershed fees, and from licenses for guiding, outfitting, hunting and fishing, while government recreation and silviculture programs create employment opportunities.

Regulating Forest Practices
British Columbia's Forest and Range Practices Act applies to any forest or range activities on public land, maintaining the province's high level of environmental protection in an efficient and effective manner. It specifies requirements to conserve soils, to reforest logged areas, and to protect riparian areas, fish and fish habitat, watersheds, biodiversity and wildlife. It also specifies requirements for the construction, maintenance and deactivation of forest roads.

Under the Act, forest companies must develop forest stewardship plans that outline how they will meet objectives set by government for soils, timber, wildlife, water, fish, biodiversity and cultural heritage resources, and they are held accountable for their on-the-ground performance. Public views and forest values must be considered before forest companies can harvest timber, build roads or undertake other forest activities on public forest land.

Government also requires special management for areas of local concern, such as recreation trails, wildlife habitat areas, winter range for animals such as deer and mountain goats, lakeshore management zones, community watersheds, fisheries-sensitive watersheds and scenic vistas. All activities must be consistent with existing land use plans.

Soon after public land is logged, it must be reforested with native species suited to local ecological conditions to maintain natural diversity. Each year, about 200 million seedlings are planted in British Columbia to reforest areas after logging, wildfire or insect infestations. Forest companies are responsible for a harvested area until there is a well-established healthy young forest.

British Columbia's forestry laws are backed by a comprehensive compliance and enforcement regime involving various provincial and federal agencies. In addition, the independent Forest Practices Board watches over all forestry activities on behalf of the public.

Determining Harvest Levels
At least once every five years, British Columbia’s independent chief forester is required by law to determine how much wood can be harvested in each of the province’s 70 management units. The chief forester can postpone a timber supply review for up to five more years if the annual cut is not expected to change significantly or set a new harvest level earlier to deal with abnormal situations such an insect infestation.

This process involves a detailed technical analysis, public comment and the consideration of forest resource values such as wildlife and fish habitat, soils, water, and recreation opportunities. It ensures that all harvest levels are based on the latest information, practices and government policies, both economic and environmental. This is the foundation of sustainable forest management, protecting ecological values while allowing stable economic benefits for British Columbia communities.

Involving British Columbians
British Columbia is unique among the world’s leading forest producers because 95 per cent of its forests are publicly owned and managed by government to protect their natural diversity and address the interests of all British Columbians.

Comprehensive land use planning involves British Columbians directly in planning related to the protection, resource development and other uses of their public lands. This process has resulted in new park designations, identified lands for resource use and set aside areas requiring special management to conserve ecological or cultural values.

British Columbia’s comprehensive land use planning process is open and locally based, and decisions take into account the needs of communities, the economy and the environment. While the planning process is consistent across British Columbia, each plan is unique so it can meet local needs. It is structured to encourage participation by the public, stakeholders and various levels of government, including First Nations. Over the last 10 years, planning has been completed in close to 85 per cent of the province.

British Columbia has roughly the same amount of forested area as it did before European settlement. Only two per cent of the province’s land has been permanently converted to other uses such as farming, ranching and urban development.

British Columbia's Coast: A Global Treasure
In the north and central Pacific Coast planning regions, an area of immense beauty and diversity known as the Great Bear Rainforest, representatives from resource sectors, environmental groups, First Nations, local communities, tourism, labour and government worked hard together to find innovative solutions to issues related to land and resource management.

Final land use agreements, announced by the British Columbia government in 2006, included protection for 1.8 million hectares (4.4 million acres), or nearly one-third of the region. Logging is not allowed in another five per cent, bringing the total where no commercial forestry is allowed to 2.1 million hectares (more than five million acres). Where resource development is allowed, it will be guided by the principles of ecosystem-based management – an adaptive management approach that seeks to maintain a balance between environmental and socio-economic concerns.

In 2007, participants in the coast planning process were awarded WWF International’s Gift to the Earth Award in recognition of the creation of the protected areas, the participatory land use planning process that led to their identification and the establishment of an innovative and well-endowed conservation and sustainable development funding mechanism to support coastal communities.

At the end of March 2009, the British Columbia government announced it had put in place a system of full implementation of ecosystem-based management, marking another important step in the complex, collaborative process.

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