Inclusive forest tenure model in works
The Ministry of Natural Resources is looking to modernize how the province licences, allocates, and prices Crown forests, with the idea to move locally towards an Enhanced Sustainable Forest Licences (eSFLs) company instead of Resolute Forest Products holding the licence for the Crossroute Forest Management Unit.
“We need to modernize the way we do forest tenure, so we are transitioning away from single entity SFLs held by large wood consumers to a more inclusive, locally-driven process,” said Jeff Wiume of the Forest Tenure Implementation Team for the Northwest Region.
“We expect eSFLs will have more flexibility in terms of how they are structured and they will include more local interests.”
Wiume added local First Nations and local communities will have more opportunity to participate in sustainable forest management, build capacity, and economic development.
“And [it] will address some enhanced SFL characteristics, such as governance, local aboriginal and community involvement, wood use, new entrants, sustainable forest management, and economic viability and competitive wood costs,” he indicated.
Wiume sees the move as a positive one.
“The forest harvesters, the ones who primarily bring wood from the forest to the mill yards, they’ll also have an opportunity to be a shareholder in this new company,” he noted.
The transition to eSFLs will be guided by the minister-endorsed document, “Principles for Enhanced Sustainable Forest Licence Implementation,” which is a result of a collaborative effort between the MNR and a working group, including representatives of several First Nations, members of a Forest Industry Working Group, and a Community Working Group.
It directs that transition will be the result of collaborative, inclusive processes that are locally-led and which reflect locally-based solutions.
The process currently is in the “pre-engagement” stage.
“What we are doing is trying to meet with interested groups/stakeholders to talk generally about forest tenure modernization in an effort to raise an awareness,” said Wiume.
“So when we begin the process of establishing an enhanced participants table, people are going to go in with their eyes wide open.
“My job right now is to raise their comfort level so they can make an independent decision if they want to be involved at a participants table or not,” Wiume added, noting some might choose not to be involved.
Or with 75 local loggers, they might choose someone to represent them at meetings.
Wiume said he’ll begin information sessions soon, whereby potential participants will be provided an opportunity to meet to continue and begin to focus a dialogue locally.
“Once we begin discussions in earnest, I expect the discussions to end up with a locally-developed business plan for an eSFL company that the minister could issue the eSFL to,” he said
He estimated that process likely would start in late summer, and take about 18-24 months to complete.
The company will have a board of directors representing shareholders with financial obligations, and will have proportional influence over financial decisions of the eSFL company while ensuring all directors, including outside directors, have a vote in all decisions.
It will be steered by an Independent General Manager, who will report to the board of directors and have the primary responsibility for sustainable forest management, as directed by the business agreement.
In addition, the eSFL company will promote the sustainable use of the full available Crown wood supply by ensuring it is used or made available to others for use.
The ministry will provide oversight and available resources, facilitate transition, and monitor progress.
“It’s still very early in the process, but to date I sense there is interest in learning more about forest tenure modernization and what that might look like locally,” Wiume said.
“I’m hoping to continue with the pre-engagement efforts with First Nations and communities, and hope to branch out and meet with our area loggers sometime in the very near future,” he added.