MLA Leonard Spoke about Bill 21 the Forest and Range Practices Amendment Act in the Legislature

Today, MLA Ronna-Rae Leonard Spoke about Bill 21 The Forest and Range Practices Amendment Act. You can watch the video here, or read the transcript below.

I rise today in support of Bill 21, the Forest and Range Practices Amendment Act. I’m very pleased that we’re looking at three major changes that will reassert the Crown’s management over public lands. I think that’s incredibly important, that we are going to be dealing with forests in a more open and transparent way so that we can be more supportive of reconciliation and have First Nations more involved and, also, that we’re going to be increasing the public’s trust.

We have a social contract over the public land, and we need to be doing whatever we can to move forward in that. I have a lot of interest in my community over forest land management. Of course, in my community, it’s private land, although the Island does have its share of Crown land as well. This is one step towards it. I want to assure the public that the ministry is looking at the whole range of things, but today we’re dealing with Crown land.

I want to say one thing in particular. It was raised in a couple of different ways today. Regarding climate change, we have, as has been stated by the member opposite, a lot of issues around beetles and various pestilence, as well as flooding and wildfires, impacting our land. It impacts our ability to actually practice our forestry and practice our use in terms of agricultural use of our public lands.

We have this wonderful opportunity now to be a little more responsive by taking these management plans and saying, “You’re not going to just roll it over every five years and think that we’re in the status quo,” because we are in a time of change, and we have to adapt to that. So seeing those plans being revisited every five years is an opportunity not only to adapt to the change in climate. It’s also now an opportunity to open it up to more public involvement.

One of the concerns and criticisms that I hear regularly is that it’s like a black hole, that people don’t know what’s happening up in the forests. This is an opportunity now for more early notice of what’s going on, maps so that people know where roads are, what the cutblocks look like. It’s an opportunity for the public to have input, and it’s particularly an opportunity for First Nations to insert themselves in this process.

It was interesting to hear about third-generation foresters and ranchers. That is a part of our historical landscape, but also a part of our historical landscape is First Nations use of the land. K’ómoks First Nation has made a point, on numerous occasions since I’ve been elected, to remind us that we are looking at a First Nation which did practice forestry in the past. It’s part of their history, and they want it to be part of their future. In the spirit of reconciliation, we have this opportunity to move forward in a stronger way.

I don’t want to say a whole lot. I just wanted to make one final comment, and it was made by the chief forester when I was lucky enough to have a briefing on this bill. It’s that forestry management isn’t like mining. It’s not just about space; it’s about time and space. We can’t manage it as if it’s a static resource.

Knowing that we’re dealing with multiple species, with changing landscapes and different challenges, this is a great opportunity for us to move forward and create a regime that’s going to gain public confidence and that we can continue to be a province that has a vibrant forestry and range use, as well as protecting our environment and having a future for future generations.

I appreciate the opportunity to stand and express my support on behalf of my constituency, and I look forward to hearing other speakers.