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British Columbia forest practices code

Guiding principles for code development
Forest practices code framework
Forest practices board
Forest appeals commission
Forest planning framework
Strategic planning
Operational planning
Forest development plans
Silviculture prescriptions
Forest practices code requirements

Marty Osberg and Brian Murphy
B.C. Ministry of Forests
Victoria, British Columbia, Canada


British Columbia is the western-most province of Canada. Its diverse terrain and climate combine to produce a multitude of ecological conditions that provide suitable habitat for a greater number of plant and animal species than any other region in Canada. British Columbia occupies an area of approximately 95 million hectares, of which 26 million hectares are estimated to be productive and economically accessible forest land. The vast majority of this area is publicly owned. Approximately 1.7 million hectares is privately owned and managed for forestry values. The remaining 24.3 million hectares are managed by the Crown.

The right to harvest timber from publicly owned forest land is granted through a contractual system of tenures and licenses which commit the license holder to performing various forest management activities. The forest, being essentially a public resource, must be managed in a manner designed to achieve the environmental and socio-economic objectives of British Columbians, as determined by their elected representatives in government.

Recent significant changes in society's attitudes with respect to protecting environmental values, maintaining biological diversity, increasing recreational use of forest land, protecting culturally significant sites, accommodating the desires of First Nations' people to negotiate comprehensive treaties, and providing greater protection for aquatic resources, have all combined to create strong pressure on the government to substantially change forest management practices in British Columbia. Forest practices that were deemed to be acceptable in the past are no longer compatible with society's values. In 1992, following extensive consultation with a broad spectrum of society, the B.C. Forest Resources Commission recommended the establishment of a code of forest practices for British Columbia and presented a set of guiding principles for the development of such a code.

Guiding principles for code development

The Forest Practices Code should:

· be seen as one component of a provincial commitment to protect and sustain the environment while ensuring a sustainable economy;

· recognize that the physical and biological capacity of the forest is a key to the long-term sustainability of all consumptive and non-consumptive uses;

· be based on integrated resource management principles;

· link forest practices to resource management priorities expressed in land-use plans;

· draw on the best of existing policies, practices and experience acquired over time and incorporate them within a single framework;

· provide minimum provincial standards for practices on applicable forest lands; the application of these standards should be flexible in response to the varying ecological conditions found in British Columbia;

· provide a systematic and cost-effective process for public input in the development, implementation, and revision of the Code;

· establish clear processes to develop locally relevant standards that improve upon provincial standards;

· provide a process of review in response to changes in social values, new scientific information, new technology, and the results of field experience; establish an open and cost-effective appeal process against resource management decisions; promote optimal standards for good forest stewardship through a system that rewards good practices and penalizes poor practices; ensure public accountability achieved through a system of established standards for practices and processes that can be assessed by independent audit; while respecting the cost implications of compliance, setting and enforcing standards, be rigorous enough to ensure protection of the integrity and long-term productivity of the forest; considered the safety of humans a priority in forest resource management; address the training of forest workers to ensure effective application of the Code in practice; and promote public awareness of forest practices standards and processes.

Forest practices code framework

The Forest Practices Code consists of the following four components:

· Forest Practices Code of British Columbia Act;
· Forest Practices Regulations;
· Forest Practices Standards; and
· Forest Practices Code Guidebooks.

The Forest Practices Code of British Columbia Act is the legislative umbrella that:

· enables the Forest Practices Code;

· establishes mandatory provincial and regional requirements for forest practices designed to make better forest practices the law;

· provides stronger powers for enforcing better forest practices and penalty provisions;

· clearly sets out the obligations of all parties;

· entrenches public involvement in establishing strategic resource management objectives and in reviewing operational plans;

· specifies administrative arrangements (e.g., establishment of a Forest Practices Board, independent audits, and appeals).

The Forest Practices Regulations lay out the forest practices that apply province-wide. The regulations govern such activities as:

· strategic and operational planning;
· timber harvesting practices;
· silviculture practices;
· road construction, maintenance, and deactivation practices;
· range management; and
· recreation.

Forest Practices Standards may be established by the Chief Forester to expand on the regulations where required. Standards are intended to provide a necessary degree of flexibility to accommodate regional variation in ecological and socio-economic conditions. The requirements specified in the regulations and standards are mandatory and legally enforceable under the Code.

The Forest Practices Guidebooks are part of the Forest Practice Code but they are not a component of the legislation. The guidebooks provide detailed recommendations on procedures, processes, and results that are considered to be consistent with the requirements of the legislative components of the Code. The recommendations in the guidebooks are considered to be 'best management practices' reflecting the current state of knowledge and experience for a particular activity. The guidance they provide is intended to facilitate the development of site specific interpretations, plans and prescriptions. Professional foresters are encouraged to exercise judgment and not to adhere rigidly to the recommendations in the guide-books when and alternative procedure could achieve better results for forest stewardship.

Forest practices board

A Forest Practices Board will be established to act as an independent public watchdog, empowered to conduct periodic independent audits of forest practices. The Forest Practices Board will investigate public complaints, appeal enforcement decisions and report the results of audits to the public.

Forest appeals commission

A Forest Appeals Commission will be established to hear appeals of enforcement determinations.

Forest planning framework

The Forest Practices Code contains both a strategic and an operational planning component. Strategic planning provides a process for translating social values and government policies into the operational plans that describe where, when, and how forest practices will be conducted.

Strategic planning

Strategic Planning involves the identification and establishment of management objectives for resource management zones, landscape units, and sensitive areas. Through the establishment of priorities for land use and resource management, strategic planning provides meaningful direction to those charged with a requirement to produce operational plans and prescriptions.

Resource management zones (1:250,000 scale maps) are developed through an extensive public consultation process designed to ensure that the social, economic, and environmental objectives specified for an area reflect the values of society. The management objectives for resource management zones provide direction on the types of uses that are considered to be compatible with achieving the desired future condition for each identified forest resource value.

Landscape units (1:50,000 scale maps) are delineated on the basis of readily identifiable physiographic or geographic features such as a single large watershed or a series of smaller watersheds. They may also be established to reflect dominant resource use patterns or administrative boundaries. They are intended to be the focus for conducting integrated resource management and for achieving long-term objectives for sustainable resource use and maintenance of biological diversity. Short- and long-term forest development plans will be assessed and approved on the basis of their compatibility with achieving the landscape unit management objectives.

Sensitive areas (1:50,000 scale maps) may be established to provide an enhanced level of protection to a localized significant or unique resource value such as cultural heritage sites or traditional use sites identified by First Nations' people, particularly scenic areas or highly prized recreational areas. All operational plans must identify any sensitive areas that may be potentially affected by the proposed activities and measures must be specified that are designed to ensure that the management objectives for these areas are achieved.

Operational planning

All forest practices must be conducted in accordance with an approved operational plan. The management obligations specified in an operational plan are legally enforceable. All operational plans must incorporate strategies designed to achieve the management objectives specified in higher-level strategic plans that may be in effect for the area within which the proposed activities will take place. Operational plans must be made available for review by resource agencies and members of the public. The most important plans required for road construction and timber harvesting operations are:

· Forest Development Plans;
· Silviculture Prescriptions; and
· Logging Plans.

Forest development plans

The forest development plan (1:20,000 map scale) is the document that shows how and where forest harvesting activities will be conducted over a broad area. The forest development plan must be consistent with all higher-level plans and must demonstrate that the strategic resource management objectives established through public involvement processes and documented in higher-level plans will be achieved.

All major licensees must produce a forest development plan that identifies the location of at least 5 years of proposed timber harvesting and the location of the road access that will be required to harvest these areas. The plan must be updated annually and must be made available for review by relevant resource management agencies and the public.

The forest development plan must include a forest cover map that shows the history of previous timber harvesting and the regeneration status of these areas. The plan must also identify the locations of sensitive areas, unstable or potentially unstable terrain, significant recreational features, cultural heritage sites, and the location of all proposed forested corridors (forest ecosystem networks) designed to provide forested linkages between riparian reserves, old growth management areas, and protected mature forested reserves. In addition to mapped resource information, the forest development plan must contain a description of the management strategies that will be implemented to:

maintain wildlife habitat; reduce the risk to the forest presented by identified forest health factors; and manage logging slash and woody debris accumulations resulting from silvicultural treatments to prevent the risk of fire from becoming unacceptably high.

Silviculture prescriptions

The silviculture prescription is a site-specific plan that prescribes in detail the method of harvesting, the silvicultural system, and the sequence of silvicultural treatments that must be conducted to reforest the area with a healthy, free-growing crop of trees that are ecologically appropriate for the site. The prescription must demonstrate that the soil will be protected so that the inherent productivity of the site is maintained, and must describe any actions required to achieve landscape-level objectives for stand structure and species composition.

The silviculture prescription must be consistent with the forest resource management objectives contained in higher-level plans or in the forest development plan that applies to the area under the prescription. The prescription must contain a map that shows the range of ecological conditions and any variability in soil sensitivity to disturbance that exists on the area. Significant resource values such as riparian reserves, lakeshore management areas, wildlife trees, cultural heritage sites, and recreational features must be identified. Measures designed to achieve the objectives for maintaining biodiversity specified in the forest development plan must be provided in the prescription. Limits on allowable levels of soil disturbance to provide for permanent and temporary access and dispersed disturbance due to harvesting or silviculture activities must be specified. Any actions required to minimize soil disturbance, such as placing constraints on the allowable season of operation or the soil conditions that must exist during operations, and to restore productivity to areas that have been temporarily disturbed must also be stated in the prescription.

Logging Plan

A logging plan (1:5,000 scale map) is a document that describes the manner in which harvesting operations are to be carried out on site to ensure the productivity of the site is maintained and that all resource values are accommodated. The logging plan must adhere to any prescribed standards of practice specified in a silviculture prescription. For example, harvesting operations must be planned and conducted to ensure that the maximum allowable level of soil disturbance specified in the silviculture prescription is not exceeded.

The logging plan must describe the harvest method and the type of equipment that will be used. Where access structures, such as on block haul roads and landings will only be required temporarily, the methods that will be employed for constructing and subsequently rehabilitating these areas to restore soil productivity must be specified in the logging plan. The location of all haul roads, landings, and excavated or bladed logging trails must be shown on the logging plan map. Measures to minimize and control surface soil erosion on logging trails, haul roads, and landings must be stated. Identified resource values, such as wildlife trees or fish-bearing streams, must be identified on the logging plan map and the actions required to minimize impacts on these must be provided in the plan. Of particular importance are any restrictions on felling and yarding activities adjacent to any small streams that do not require the maintenance of a forested riparian reserve.

Forest practices code requirements

Forest Roads

Forest roads must be carefully planned, located and constructed in advance of timber harvesting to ensure that the total area of productive forest land alienated to this purpose is minimized. Wherever possible, roads must be located to avoid potentially unstable slopes, riparian areas and critical wildlife habitat areas. Where the nature of the terrain dictates that a road must be located across a potentially unstable slope, the area must be assessed by a trained Geoscientist and the road must be designed and constructed under the supervision of a professional engineer.

Drainage systems must be designed and constructed to maintain surface drainage patterns and to avoid causing excessive erosion and sedimentation of streams. All roads required to provide permanent access must be fully maintained to ensure that the road prism is stable and that the drainage structures are fully functional at all times. Roads not required to provide permanent access must be deactivated so that natural drainage patterns are reestablished and the roadbed is stabilized.

Timber Harvesting

Timber harvesting operations must not cause environmental damage. Where operations are causing environmental damage the licensee must immediately take whatever measures are necessary to stop the damage and to mitigate the impacts of any damage that has already occurred.

Cutblock design, including the maximum size, shape and pattern across the landscape, is subject to any recommendations provided in higher-level plans that are designed to achieve biodiversity objectives or to minimize impacts on scenic values or community watersheds. Where no direction on maximum cutblock size is presented in higher-level plans then default limits of 40 hectares for the coastal and southern interior portions of the province, and 60 hectares for the northern interior portion of the province have been set. Larger cutblocks can be established if, within the area to be harvested, measures are implemented to incorporate structural characteristics of natural disturbance, or where required to salvage timber that has been damaged by fire, insects, or wind.

Harvesting in community watersheds must not result in a deterioration in water quality. Excavated of bladed logging trails must not be constructed in community watersheds on any areas that have a high surface soil erosion hazard and a moderate or higher risk of sediment delivery to streams, or on any area subject to a high likelihood for landslides following timber harvesting. On areas outside community watersheds, excavated and bladed logging trails may only be constructed on areas where the soil properties are suitable for implementing effective rehabilitation measures to restore site productivity once the harvesting activities have been completed.

Harvesting operations in riparian and lakeshore management zones must ensure that the values in these areas are maintained. Streamside trees whose root systems are required to maintain stream bank stability or that provide essential shade to small temperature sensitive streams must not be harvested. Ground-based harvesting equipment must be kept at least 5 metres away from stream banks unless the equipment is being operated on a snow-pack that is sufficiently deep to protect understory vegetation from damage, or the equipment is crossing the stream at a designated channel crossing site with adequate stream bank protection in place. Harvesting activities must not cause damage to fisheries sensitive zones, or take place within 100 metres upslope of a community water supply intake.


The Forest Practices Code will significantly change the way the forests in British Columbia are managed. The emphasis will be on achieving stewardship of forests based on an ethic of respect for the land. The vision of the Code is one of sustainable use of the forest we hold in trust for future generations. The Code recognizes that realizing the benefits that can be derived from forests requires active management and the constant evaluation and balancing of values to meet the economic and cultural needs of people and communities The Forest Practices Code provides the tools, mechanisms, and legislated authority required to achieve the vision of sustainable forest use.

Authors' Contact Information

Marty Osberg
Manager, Forest Soils Research
Research Branch
B.C. Ministry of Forests
31 Bastion Square
Victoria, B.C. V8W 3E7, Canada
Telephone: +1 604 3 87-7795
Fax: +1 604 387-0046

Brian J. Murphy
Forest Practices Officer
Silviculture Branch
B.C. Ministry of Forests
31 Bastion Square
Victoria, B.C. V8W 3E7, Canada
Telephone: +1 604 387-1168
Fax: +1 604 387-1467

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