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. This includes:

  • 818,000 hectares of managed forest is managed as part of the Private Managed Forest Land Program and regulated under the Private Managed Forest Land Act.
  • The remaining areas of managed forest are governed as part of licences issued under the Forest Act (tree farm licences, woodlot licences or community forest agreements) and subject to the regulations under the Forest and Range Practices Act.

Do all private forest landowners classify their land as “managed forest land”?

No. Participation in the Private Managed Forest Land Program is voluntary.

About half of the private land in B.C. that is forested is classed as managed forest land. Landowners who are not part of the Private Managed Forest Land Program, or who do not have their private land in a Forest Act licence, would be required to follow local government by-laws on their property.

All private landowners are subject to the Water Sustainability ActDrinking Water Protection ActEnvironmental Management ActWildlife Act, Wildfire Act, Assessment Act, and the federal Migratory Birds Convention ActFisheries Act and Species at Risk Act.

What are the benefits to a landowner of having land classified as managed forest land?

Property classified as managed forest land has assessed values that are generally lower than for other classes such as residential, which can result in lower property taxes. In addition, landowners have the right to harvest trees, and local governments cannot adopt bylaws or require permits that would restrict forest management activity.

How do tax rates on managed forest land differ from other private land?

The calculation of managed forest land assessments is based on a two-step process:

  • The land’s capability to grow, harvest and deliver trees to market and;
  • The value of the trees on the land when harvested

This assesses the land at a forest value, which is not influenced by other market forces. The land is valued based on forest use only and not based on any other potential use. As a result, the assessment is often lower than for other classes of private land.

The Managed Forest Land and Cut Timber Values regulation (BC Reg. 90/2000) contains the schedules of value for land and timber: http://www.bclaws.ca/civix/document/id/complete/statreg/90_2000

For further information on how managed forest land is assessed, go to the BC Assessment Authority website: https://info.bcassessment.ca/Services-products/property-classes-and-exemptions/managed-forest-classification-in-british-columbia