On March 23, 2010 the National Assembly adopted on the Sustainable Forest Development Act (“Bill 57”), which will completely replace the present Forest Act as of April 1, 2013. The goal of the legislation is ensuring the longevity of forests in the province through the implementation of sustainable forest planning, encouraging ecosystem-based development as well as integrated regional management of resources and forestry territory. Bill 57 encourages accountability on the part of forest users and managers, and shared responsibility between the province, regional groups, aboriginal communities and forestry users. The legislation also addresses monitoring and control of work performed in provincial forests, selling wood at a price that reflects its market value, maintaining wood-processing facilities, managing forest protection activities and giving more importance to private forests.
Bill 57 defines “ecosystem-based development” as development that ensures the preservation of the biodiversity and viability of ecosystems, by reducing the differences between developed and natural forests. The objective is to involve various stakeholders in the integrated management of resources, to protect all elements of forestry territory. The Minister of Natural Resources and Wildlife has to consult aboriginal communities to ensure that their interests are protected through sustainable forest planning. The Minister must also make public a consultation policy in order to encourage public participation in forest management.
As of April 1, 2013, all timber supply and forest management agreements and all forest management agreements presently granted under the Forest Act will be canceled. The agreements, however, will continue to apply until the following obligations have been fulfilled:
- Preparing and submitting to the Minister, before November 1, 2013 a report on the forests development activities carried out during the preceding year;
- Applying the corrective programs established by the Minister;
- Scaling harvested timber according to the instructions provided by the Minister; and
- Paying the applicable dues and contributing to the forestry fund and to forest protection organizations.
Similar provisions of Bill 57 apply to other types of forests management contracts and to auxiliary timber supply guarantee agreements signed under the Forest Act. Section 337 of Bill 57 further provides that the cancellation of the agreements does not give agreement holders the right to an indemnity, except as regards infrastructure such as roads, bridges and forests camps, established by them under a plan approved by the Minister. The Government shall grant agreement holders an indemnity deemed fair and equitable for the infrastructure expenses for which no subsidies or credits were granted. The indemnity, according to Bill 57 shall be based on the net value of the infrastructure after depreciation, according to the book value entered in the accounting records of the enterprise and the vouchers submitted. The indemnity may be paid to an agreement holder in a lump sum or be credited to the purchase of volume of timber from forests in the domain of the State or be paid in any other manner determined by the Government.
The holder of a timber supply and forest management agreement will be entitled to a timber supply guarantee as set forth under Bill 57 if the holder applies for it in writing before January 1, 2012 and pays the required annual royalty before April 1, 2013. The holder of a forest management agreement can also be entitled, under Bill 57, to be given the management of a land area identified as a local forest by April 1, 2013 and, for that purpose, to enter into an agreement under which the management of that land area is delegated to the agreement holder, if the agreement holder applies for it in writing before April 1, 2011. During the process leading to the identification of a local forest, the Minister is required to consult the agreement holder to determine the latter’s interest in the different places the holder would like to see identified as a local forest, but taking into account how close the area is to the territory of the municipality or the native community concerned. Bill 57 provides that in the management delegation agreement, the Minister must try to maintain, as far as possible, a timber harvesting potential of a volume nearing that to which the agreement holder would have been entitled on April 1, 2013, had the agreement not been canceled.
Wood-processing plant operating permits issued under the Forest Act and in force on April 1, 2010 shall be deemed to be wood processing plant operating permits issued under Bill 57 and the holders of the said permits shall be governed by the provisions of the new act. As mentioned that the outset, a significant portion of Bill 57 is not yet in force and will only become so as of April 1, 2013.