Spray Lake Sawmills
Public Advisory Committee
Spray Lake Sawmills (1980) Ltd’s (SLS) Forest Management Agreement (FMA) area is located in the southern east slopes of Alberta. It is the southern most FMA in the province, covering approximately 2800 sq km in a long narrow band from Sundre to the southern end of Kananaskis Country. This places it between Calgary, the provinces largest urban centre, and a heavily used parks system to the west. The FMA is dissected by the Trans-Canada Highway and has a number of smaller towns dotting its perimeter. The area has a long-standing history of timber harvesting, ranching, recreation and oil and gas activity. Combined, these characteristics provide the FMA with a high profile and a corresponding need for a meaningful public involvement process.
When Spray Lake Sawmills (1980) Ltd. completed a Detailed Forest Management Plan (DFMP) for the FMA (approved 2007), a commitment was made to provide an on-going opportunity for public involvement. One of the primary vehicles chosen to fulfill this commitment is a Public Advisory Committee.
The terms-of-reference provide a road map or set of operating guidelines for how the Public Advisory Committee will function. A clear terms-of-reference should minimize needless conflict and inefficiencies. It should clarify expectations, reduce tangents and allow for greater focus on achievement of its mandate.
In this case, its mandate is to act as a review panel and sounding board for the company’s monitoring program, provide feedback on development of the company’s operating ground rules, and provide advise on on-going stakeholder communications. The Detailed Forest Management Plan for Spray Lake Sawmills’ FMA and B9 Quota area is the primary focus of this process. Spray Lake Sawmills is entering into the next round of DFMP development, with a target submission date of 2018. Operating Plans such as the General Development Plan, Forest Harvest Plan and the Annual Operating Plans will also be reviewed by the PAC but primarily from an overview perspective of any issues which may arise from them. This will assist in any discussions to help resolve resource use conflicts.
In the event of a dispute between Spray Lake Sawmills and another individual or stakeholder group the Public Advisory Committee may be asked to act as a sounding board to hear both sides of the issue and explore any possible resolutions to the dispute. This will not be binding on either side but may be useful for an impartial third party group to provide their opinion on an issue. In the event that no resolution is found it will then be referred to the appropriate government regulatory body for a final decision.
The DFMP must conform to higher order planning documents such as the newly forming South Saskatchewan Regional Plan, which is required by the Alberta Land Stewardship Act, and the various other integrated resource management plans that cover the DFMP planning area. The DFMP must also abide by provincial and federal legislation, the terms of the Forest Management Agreement and the April 2006 Alberta Forest Management Planning Standards .
In terms of DFMP development, PAC members are expected to monitor the stakeholders and public they represent in order to help identify issues, criteria and options that need to be considered by the planning team. Issues related to technical forestry matters or plan specific components will be aided by the input from professionals & experts when appropriate. Final submission of the complete DFMP is expected in 2018
It is equally important to clarify what is not under consideration within this process. The company’s business plan, manufacturing facilities and financial records do not form part of the public involvement process.
A review of the PAC terms-of-reference will be included as a standard meeting agenda item on an annual basis to ensure it is kept current and relevant.
Operating principles for the Public Advisory Committee tentatively outlined as follows:
Members of a public involvement process are not expected to be technical experts but to bring insight to the table on a broad spectrum of societal values and how they may be integrated with natural elements of the landscape.
Keeping a Balance
All Advisory Committee members have an equal status and value as part of the team. All will have an equal opportunity to present their views and all views will be given legitimate consideration.
The Advisory Committee will operate by consensus. A recommendation from the Group will proceed where all members of the Group can live with it, although not necessarily support it. Spray Lake Sawmills will endeavor to accept the Groups recommendations where ever possible. Recognizing that the company is still responsible for regulatory compliance, costs and any liabilities that may flow out of the plan, Spray Lake Sawmills still retains the final decision on which recommendations to accept. In the event that a recommendation is not accepted it will still be noted together with rationale for the decision.
In the event the PAC cannot reach a consensus position the range of dissenting positions will be noted in the meeting minutes.
In order to maintain the integrity of the process and the cooperative spirit, the Group will be expected to communicate as a team. Issue negotiations should occur within the Group’s meetings, not through the media or outside public forums. Summary minutes will be prepared following each meeting. Once the Group has approved the minutes they will be posted on the Company’s website and be open to public access.
Internal communications will generally be held via face-to-face meetings with pre-developed agendas. Emails will commonly be used for arranging meetings, disseminating pre-meeting information packages and distribution of minutes.
Conflict of Interest
In the event that an agenda poses a conflict of interest with a PAC member that member shall declare the conflict at the onset of the meeting.
Meetings and Attendance
Meeting frequency may vary during the course of the planning process but will generally occur on a quarterly basis. Meeting frequency, dates and times will be established by the Advisory Committee on an on-going basis The majority of Committee members (minimum of 6) should be in attendance in order to carry on Public Advisory Committee business. The Advisory Committee may determine further details on attendance policies. PAC meetings are chaired by a Spray Lake Sawmills representative.
The Advisory Committee is fairly small and should maintain a fair degree of flexibility on meeting scheduling. There is therefore no system for alternates. This should also allow for progress in a timely fashion without the need for as much backtracking. Alternates can be selected should an Advisory Group member need to be absent for an extended period of time or need to withdraw all together.
Resources/Access to Information
Spray Lake Sawmills will provide the meeting space and administrative support as may be required to conduct PAC business. Spray Lake Sawmills will also provide information to the PAC as required so the PAC will be able to have full and informed discussion.
From time to time agenda items may require the participation of outside expertise to help facilitate full and informed discussion. Spray Lake will organize this on an as needed basis.
Membership on the Public Advisory Committee is voluntary, with no salary or stipends attached to it. Spray Lake Sawmills will compensate Committee members for mileage to travel to the meeting if they live outside of the Cochrane/Calgary area.
The duration of the Committee’s mandate will continue until completion of the new DFMP. This is estimated to be sometime during 2018.