The Liberal pro-corporate deregulation train unloaded more foul smelling cargo yesterday with the release of weakened regulations protecting forests.
Following its standard practice of announcing bad news about the environment late on Friday afternoon (after the press cycle) to avoid media coverage, late yesterday the Liberal BC government released new forestry regulations that further turn over management of BC’s precious forests to corporate loggers.
These regulations are the most recent step in the Liberal’s erosion of forest protection that began with Forest and Range Practices Act in November 2002. The weakening of forest, water and species were not unexpected given the government’s pro-corporate, anti-environment bias. Some may consider it payback for the strong political support and over $3,434,395 in donations (1996-2002) – the highest of any corporate sector- the Liberal party has received from logging corporations.
Despite the rhetoric that “Cenvironmental protection would be maintained in BC’s forests“, the new forestry regulations have few if any enforceable standards. Instead, the new regulations have huge loopholes that allow logging companies to ‘opt out’ and propose their own set of rules for virtually everything, including fish, wildlife, biodiversity, soil and water protection, and the size of cut blocks.
In fact the regulations make the government economic bias – and lack of commitment to good science and the environmental – very clear, as environmental objectives must be met “without unduly reducing the supply of timber from British Columbia’s forest’.”
The provincial government’s continuing contempt for public participation was evident in the process used to develop the regulations. These regulations, like the Forest and Range Practices Act before them, were developed behind closed doors by an unholy alliance of corporate foresters, government bureaucrats and political aides. For the first time in decades, environmental groups were not included in the consultations that led to the development of important regulations protecting BC’s forests.
This announcement is just the latest example of the Liberal’s to downsize government, privatize public resources and turn over the commons to industry self-management.
Environmental lawyers familiar with the new regulations have criticized the lack of enforceable results, and the degree of discretion granted to industrial loggers.
“This regime could lead to a ‘free for all’ in which the only way agency enforcement staff or the public will be able to know what the rules are to consult the plans and correspondence for each individual company. Ultimately, there could be as many forest practices ‘codes’ as there are forest companies,” said Mark Haddock, a staff lawyer at West Coast Environmental Law “with no guarantees any of them will provide the kind of environmental protections British Columbians expect for our water and wildlife.”