Saturday, April 18, 2015

Crown Land - The Waste of Abundance

It is a concern for me that 95% of our province is crown land; land managed in a manner that is isolated from long term concern that one would see in a fee simple ownership regime.  The recent Supreme Court decision related to Chilcotin Bands’ claims, further exacerbates the problem, as the court decision has enshrined communal ownership, precluding the land being used as collateral or being applied to first nation interests with any effectiveness. Worse, is the government, in an effort to retain control of land is hesitant to offer tenure regimes for the long term, Forest Tenure is an example.  

There is an area South of Kamloops that I frequent regularly, there is about 100 km sq. that I walk in on a regular basis. I have been observing this piece of country for about 4 years fairly intensively and for over 30 years less intensively. As an individual that has made a living in various ways shepherding land or in some way exercising myself in relation to the land, I’ve developed an eye for land use. The subject property is grossly underutilized or utilized in a manner that fails to access the properties full potential for contribution to the economy, to really satisfy a fulsome way the interests of various user groups or to fulfil in a complete way the long term environmental management opportunities.

There are a number of government “tenures” over the land, recreational tenure, agricultural grazing tenure, forestry tenure, provincial park tenure and then interspersed fee simple land. The recreational tenure has a cross country ski club located in the area with several miles of ski trails over the area, on the lake adjacent to the ski trails, there is the occasional use for motorcycle ice races. Logging is done in the non-park areas in the same manner as it would be done in a less intensively used, or in a more remote area. Grazing is done by a local rancher – the grazing resources are managed in a very “extensive” (non-intensive) way. When I walk there I always think, you know, if the government gave me the list of interests there to manage, extended tenure and then a free hand to manage, I could do much better – better address interests, better utilization of the land, more land generated revenue, more taxes to the government and management with a time horizon that was intergenerational in nature. I know I can do better, what is impairing government from accessing the full potential of crown land – the fact that there is no final authority over a manageable area, there is no “vested interest” – those managing the land are detached from the outcomes of their decisions. To a person, the people I know in government in the land management space are well educated, people of conscience and eager to do a good job – the maze of competing for jurisdiction I think precludes the best use of the land.

Any given area of land is best managed holistically with a management horizon that is commensurate with the resources at hand, agricultural crops 1 to 5 years, soil 100 years, forest interests 40 to 100 years, geo physical alterations (mining) 50 to 100 years. The means by which government now manages tenure precludes accessing a management regime that optimizes outcomes over time; we “permit” people to go take things, rather than, providing tenures that encourage the long and productive use of the land. This tenure environment as emerged out of concern by many the crown lands are public resources and as such, access to these lands must be continual – government has been reluctant to provide tenure regimes that see to the land resource in its entirety or even to optimize the use of a given single resource, like timber.

The subject property that I am basing my thinking on is a case in point, there is opportunity there in all areas of endeavor – from recreation to forestry to agriculture – I wager, if given access to that land to utilize as I saw fit, absent paying a single direct fee to government – stumpage, lease etc. – I could better than double revenues to government by gainfully employing likely as many as 20 people AND generate an overall land management outcome that better serves the land and the people using it.   
I walked through the area last week, I challenge anyone to go look at the recent logging for example. The people logging there met industry standards, you should go look at the material left behind – wood that has no place in the modern milling processes – but – if the right management environment was provided it could be utilized in non-conventionally ways, piled undersized green wood, clear cut beside a ski run – these things are undesirable at best.

As for grazing, the residual grass in many areas represents overburden and riparian areas get challenged. There is an opportunity for more recreational offerings. The meadows every year have left latent tons of sedge grass that might be harvested and utilized. There are millions of dollars of latent opportunity there, there is an opportunity to enhance the wildlife there – I think we can do better. 

I believe that tenure in conjunction with an extractive management perspective is to blame. Mother earth is a generous provided, you only need to nurture it a little and think in terms of natural cycles and place human use in the mix in a harmonious way. We can do better, and we need to – the latent potential in crown land use is staggering.

More Thinking on the Subject

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