It’s hard to imagine the moniker “super natural British Columbia” holding up if our province didn’t have such vast forests. More than 60 percent of the landbase in BC is forested and 94 percent of the land is publicly owned. This makes BC unique in the world.

But many people in Vancouver believe that all trees in our forests are at risk of being cut for logging. Fortunately, that’s not true. Forest management in BC involves the consideration of multiple values, in consultation with many parties, before a single tree is cut. That’s why for more than 70 years, management of our forests has been entrusted to registered forest professionals who are members of the Association of BC Forest Professionals (ABCFP).

Specialty training builds trust of community

BC forest professionals have specialized training and education based on either four-year university degrees or two-year technical diplomas from accredited forestry or allied science programs. They must also complete a two-year articling period under the supervision of a sponsoring forest professional before they become registered members of the association.

On becoming a member of the ABCFP, forest professionals swear to uphold a code of ethics that speaks to how they will conduct themselves. It outlines their responsibilities to the public, the profession, their employer, and other members, and their duty to meet standards of practice that are the measures of professional performance. This willingness to be held accountable for both their behaviour and their decisions provides assurances that forest professionals will balance the associated values around our forests that contribute to healthy ecosystems and communities. These values include recreation, jobs, clean air and water, spiritual values, and more. To undertake this feat, BC has more than 5,400 registered forest professionals in every corner of the province working for governments, industry, consultants, First Nations, and teaching in academia.

People trust forest professionals. For the past 20 years, independent public opinion research has consistently found the public ranks forest professionals as the most trusted source for providing information regarding BC’s forest resources — more trusted than academics, environmentalists, government managers, and industry.

How are the forests managed?

The objectives for the land and resources are set by society and the landowner. In BC’s case, the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations, and Rural Development defines the objectives on behalf of the public. The government also sets the standards for practices on the landbase, enshrining them in policy and legislation and then monitoring whether companies are following the rules through use of compliance and enforcement programs. Forest professionals work within these policies and integrate them with the objectives of the licensee (a company or organization that holds the rights to manage the forest). As a result, forest professionals manage forests for a variety of users and uses: timber harvesting, wildlife habitat, recreation, eco-tourism, First Nations values, trapping, mining, and oil and gas extraction.

Forest management decisions are made with input from other natural resource professionals like engineers, geoscientists, biologists, agrologists, and archaeologists, and in consultation with stakeholders and First Nations. In some cases, planning can take several years while crucial professional assessments on terrain, wildlife, fisheries, visuals, and timber value are conducted in conjunction with consultation meetings.

BC’s forests are an important part of a healthy environment, ensuring clean air and clean water. They also serve as the backbone of the provincial economy by providing rural community stability while generating government revenue to pay for medical services, public education, highway improvements, and other public programs. We all gain by having trusted forest professionals who understand and manage the forest not only for the trees, but for all values.