Oversight and management of the provincial silviculture program in Crown forests must be improved23 June 2015
FREDERICTON (GNB) – In her latest report, released today to the legislative assembly, Auditor General Kim MacPherson concluded that while expenditures on silviculture activities over the past 30 years will contribute to increases in the future timber supply, there are deficiencies in the oversight, management and administration of the silviculture program.
In particular, the Department of Natural Resources did not have processes to determine if annual spending of $29 million provides value for money to the province and to determine the expected future value from current silviculture expenditures. MacPherson noted significant government delays in providing strategic direction for Crown forest management from 2009 to 2014.
“Indecisiveness in determining strategic direction creates an environment of uncertainty and constant change that inhibits long-term planning and investment,” said MacPherson. “Sustainable forest management requires a stable and predictable regulatory environment.”
She noted an apparent department bias towards economic development and industry in managing the Crown forest. MacPherson also reported that silviculture services are not procured in a transparent and competitive manner, and that there is undue reliance placed on an internal costing model.
The report also found weaknesses in the department’s public reporting regarding the Crown forest asset and the long-term impact of decisions on future wood supply.
“We believe it is important to the legislative assembly and the general public to know how the department is safeguarding and overseeing the renewal of one of our most valuable resources,” commented MacPherson.
The Auditor General made a number of recommendations to the department to improve oversight, management and accountability in Crown forest management, including:
- adhering to a regulated and predictable forest management planning cycle and ensuring compliance with the Crown Lands and Forest Act;
- ensuring a forest management agreement is signed by all current licensees to achieve compliance with the act;
- obtaining regular forest management plans by Crown licensees and comparing silviculture levels between freehold and Crown land;
- completing licensee performance evaluations every five years as required by the act; and
- incorporating the long-term regeneration needs of Crown forests and harvest trends to support the distribution of silviculture funding.
The silviculture chapter can be found in Volume II of the 2015 Auditor General Report which contains three performance reports. Volume I, released earlier this year, reported on Financial Assistance to Atcon Holdings Inc. and Industry. The Auditor General Reports are available online.