Forest products companies talk a lot about ‘due diligence.’ You could add another ‘d’ word to that to make it a triple ‘d’ – the ‘due diligence dilemma.’
Part of due diligence is ‘engaging’ the public in forest management planning. For holders of Forest Management Agreements this is a provincially-mandated responsibility. Show us that you have observed ‘due diligence’ with regard to consultation, and we’ll stay out of your grille. Don’t show it, and maybe we’ll intervene. Nobody wants that to happen, so the companies make the effort. Sometimes it must seem like going through the motions and not much more. You could easily enough come to that conclusion when you hold ‘public advisory’ meetings and nobody much shows up.
So the dilemma: if you hold public meetings and the public stays away, does it mean you’ve satisfied due diligence?
Probably not. Certainly more could be done to stir up awareness and interest in the meetings. Such has happened in the past, when the Slave Lake PAC meetings were held more often and when the group appeared to have a bit of independence. That all went south when the big downturn happened, sometime in the last decade, and it’s never really recovered. The meetings are now held twice per year, and the most recent one had only a couple of weeks’ notice.
So perhaps it’s no wonder that hardly anybody (who didn’t have to be here) showed up to hear the riveting details of the VOIT (values, objectives, indicators and targets) of the latest long-range forest management plan.
Such meetings are of course not the only way to fulfill due diligence. The planners also contact identified stakeholder groups and even individuals (trappers). How much they can afford to do and how effective it is…. Questionable, but there it is.
In the meantime, knock on wood, the ‘social license’ to operate is somewhat taken for granted.