Every once in a while the BC Government brings in legislation to amend forestry policies to such a degree that it ends up creating more problems than it solves. Such was the case with the recently repealed Bill 8 - the Miscellaneous Statutes Amendment Act, 2013. The bill was intended to overhaul and streamline a grab-bag of forestry provisions across seven ministries, especially with respect to dealing with the pine beetle devastation in the interior.
However, the sweeping effect of Bill 8 would be such that public lands and unceded First Nations territories would have been ostensibly opened to privatization. The legislation was myopic, not taking into account the effects of climate change, as well as being disrespectful of First Nations rights and title and poor public consultation processes.
With a huge public outcry, pushback from First Nations, environmental organizations and the official government opposition over the past few weeks, the BC government has thankfully pulled the legislation.
Although they did the right thing in repealing the bill, the stated reasons were spurious. Forests Minister Steve Thomson was contrite, indicating that the government needs to undertake further public engagement and do a better job of informing the public on the benefits of the legislation – completely missing the point of the problems with the bill.
Further in-depth information on Bill 8 and the recent Op Ed published in the Times Colonist by 10 environmental organizations including Greenpeace is available here.
In the meantime we celebrate this victory for the forests and for people and communities, both First Nations and non-First Nations. Let us hope there will be truly enlightened legislation coming out of Victoria in the times to come, for we need to get real around how we are going to manage BC forests (and doing so, collaboratively with First Nations) as one of the few bulwarks against the serious effects of climate change.