Rapid changes in social values and in our understanding and management of complex forest ecosystems mean there is always some uncertainty in the information used in AAC determinations. Two important ways of dealing with uncertainty are:
(i) minimizing risk, in respect of which, in making AAC determinations, I consider the uncertainty associated with the information before me, and attempt to assess the various potential current and future social, economic and environmental risks associated with a range of possible AACs; and
(ii) redetermining AACs frequently, to ensure they incorporate up-to-date information and knowledge¾a principle that has been recognized in the legislated requirement to redetermine AACs every 5 years. The adoption of this principle is central to many of the guiding principles that follow.
In considering the various factors that Section 7 of the Forest Act requires me to take into account in determining AACs, I attempt to reflect as closely as possible operability and forest management factors that are a reasonable extrapolation from current practices. It is not appropriate to base my decision on unsupported speculation with respect either to factors that could work to increase the timber supplysuch as optimistic assumptions about harvesting in unconventional areas or using unconventional technology that are not substantiated by demonstrated performanceor to factors that could work to reduce the timber supplysuch as integrated resource management objectives beyond those articulated in current planning guidelines or the Forest Practices Code.
The impact of the Forest Practices Code on timber supply is a matter of considerable public concern. In determinations made before the Code was brought into force, no final standards or regulations were available at the time the timber supply analyses were conducted. Accordingly, the analyses were unable to assess the impacts of any new constraints on timber production which might be imposed under the Code. In those determinations I did not consider any more stringent restrictions or additional impacts upon timber supply beyond those anticipated to occur due to the application of guidelines current at the time of determination. However, I assumed that the Code would at least entrench the standards exemplified by those guidelines as statutory requirements.
The Forest Practices Code of British Columbia Regulations were approved by the Lieutenant Governor in Council on April 12, 1995, and released to the public at that time. The Forest Practices Code of British Columbia Act was brought into force on June 15, 1995. Studies in selected Timber Supply Areas (Forest Practices Code Timber Supply Analysis, BCFS, February 1996) indicate that under the Code there will be some impacts on timber supply additional to those expected under previous guidelines. In AAC determinations made since the coming into force of the Code, I have viewed with some caution the timber supply projections in timber supply analyses that pre-date the Code, as is the case in TFL 45. At the same time, I am mindful that the full force of the Code may not be felt during the transition phase of its implementation, and that the impacts of specific factors on timber supply may not yet have been assessed on a local basis.
The impact on the timber supply of land use decisions resulting from planning processes such as the Commission on Resources and Environment (C.O.R.E.) process or the Land and Resource Management Planning (LRMP) process is a matter often raised in discussions of AAC determinations. In determining AACs it would be inappropriate for me to attempt to speculate on the impacts on timber supply that will result from land-use decisions that have not yet been taken by government. Thus I do not consider the possible impacts of existing or anticipated recommendations made by such planning processes, nor do I attempt to anticipate any action the government could take in response to such recommendations.
Moreover, even where government has made land-use decisions, it may not always be possible to analyze the full timber supply impact in AAC determinations. In most cases, government's land-use decision must be followed by detailed implementation decisions. For example, a land-use decision may require the establishment of resource management zones and resource management objectives and strategies for these zones. Until such implementation decisions are made, it is impossible to properly assess the overall impact of the land-use decision. However, where protected areas have been designated by order in council, these areas are no longer considered to contribute to timber supply. The legislated requirement for five-year AAC reviews will ensure that ongoing plan implementation decisions are addressed.
The Forest Renewal Plan will fund a number of intensive silviculture activities that have the potential to affect timber supply, particularly in the long term. In general, it is too early for me to assess the consequences of these activities, but wherever feasible I will take their effects into account. The next AAC determination will be better positioned to determine how the Plan may affect timber supply.
Some have suggested that, given the large uncertainties present with respect to much of the data in AAC determinations, any adjustments in AAC should wait until better data are available. I agree that some data are not complete, but this will always be true where information is constantly evolving and management issues changing. Moreover, in the past, waiting for improved data has created the extensive delays that have resulted in the current urgency to redetermine many outdated AACs. In any case, the data and models available today are superior to those available in the past, and will undoubtedly provide for more reliable determinations.
Others have suggested that, in view of data uncertainties, I should immediately reduce some AACs in the interests of caution. However, any AAC determination I make must be the result of applying my judgement to the available information, taking any uncertainties into account. Given the large impacts that AAC determinations can have on communities, no responsible AAC determination can be made solely on the basis of a response to uncertainty. Nevertheless, in making my determination, I may need to make allowances for risks that arise because of uncertainty.
With respect to First Nations issues, I am aware of the Crown's legal obligations resulting from the June 1993 Delgamuukw decision of the B.C. Court of Appeal regarding aboriginal rights. The AAC I determine should not in any way be construed as limiting the Crown's obligation under the Delgamuukw decision, and in this respect it should be noted that my determination does not prescribe a particular plan of harvesting activity within the TFL. It is also independent of any decision by the Minister of Forests with respect to subsequent allocation of the wood supply. Aboriginal rights will be taken into account as far as possible under Section 7(3) of the Forest Act and will be respected in the administration of the AAC determined.
Regarding future treaty decisions, as with other land-use decisions it would be inappropriate for me to attempt to speculate on the impacts on timber supply that will result from decisions that have not yet been taken by government.
Overall, in making AAC determinations, I am mindful of my obligation as steward of the forest land of British Columbia, of the mandate of the Ministry of Forests as set out in Section 4 of the Ministry of Forests Act, and of my responsibilities under the Forest Practices Code of British Columbia Act.