Private Managed Forest Land

The Private Managed Forest Land Program was established in 2003 under the Private Managed Forest Land Act, under which landowners commit to manage their property for long-term forest production, including meeting legislated objectives for key public environmental values.

Managed Forest Land

Private land in British Columbia accounts for a small percentage of the province’s land base (approximately 4.5 million hectares or 5%). The origins of private land date back to the early part of the province’s establishment when land was granted by the Crown for railroad construction, settlement and mining. One of the most significant grants occurred in 1884 on southeastern Vancouver Island, when about 850,000 hectares was granted to local entrepreneurs in return for the E&N Railway construction.

Due to its historical origin, much of the private forest land in B.C. is located near communities on productive land that is highly valued for multiple resources including timber production, fish and wildlife habitat, drinking water, and recreation. The majority of private forest land is located on southeastern Vancouver Island, and in the Kootenay region.

Managed forest is a BC Assessment Authority land classification established in 1988 to encourage private landowners to manage their lands for long-term forest production.

To be eligible for classification as managed forest, land must be a minimum of 25 hectares and be suitable for growing trees. The owner must commit to use the property for production and harvesting of timber and associated forest management activities.

Most managed forest is part of the Private Managed Forest Land Program under the Private Managed Forest Land Act.

Of the 4.5 million hectares of private land in B.C., representing approximately 5% of the provincial land base, just over one million hectares is classed as managed forest and is subject to forest practices regulation.

Private Managed Forest Land Program

The goals of the Private Managed Forest Land Program are to:

  • encourage private landowners to manage their lands for long-term forest production, and
  • encourage sustainable forest management practices, including the protection of key public environmental values.

The program is administered by the Private Managed Forest Land Council (also known as the Managed Forest Council), which was established under the Private Managed Forest Land Act in 2004 for this purpose. This legislation:

  • Establishes the Managed Forest Council
  • Establishes management objectives for key public environmental values
  • Provides procedures for private managed forest land application, withdrawal of management commitment, payment of exit fees, and annual declarations
  • Restricts local government from adopting by-laws or issuing permits that apply to private managed forest land if doing so would have the effect of restricting, directly or indirectly, a forest management activity
  • Provides compliance and enforcement provisions.

This legislation is primarily a “results-based” regulatory model. Instead of specifying rules for how land must be managed, management objectives are set for landowners. This allows landowners to develop and use management strategies most appropriate to the scale and geographic location of their operations.

Regulations under the act provide additional detail to support the Managed Forest Council’s administration of the program including provisions such as

  • Requirements for landowners regarding management of environmental values
  • Offences and fines for non-compliance with requirements established by the Council
  • Procedures for determining exit fees
  • Provisions for critical wildlife habitat for species at risk.

These regulatory requirements are in addition to provincial and federal environmental laws that apply to all private landowners. These laws include the Water Sustainability Act, Drinking Water Protection Act, Environmental Management Act, Wildlife Act, Wildfire Act, and federal Fisheries Act, Migratory Birds Convention Act, and Species at Risk Act.

Private Managed Forest Land Program Review

The Ministry of Forests conducted a review of the Private Managed Forest Land Program. The review is one of several policy reforms announced as part of the Coast Forest Sector Revitalization Initiative.

As part of the review, the ministry sought public feedback on where the program is most effective, and if improvements are needed.