Logging companies are out of control, and the government lacks the resources to do much about it, say the Quebec government’s own forestry bureaucrats.

In a scathing report from Quebec’s Natural Resources Ministry, the bureaucrats admit they don’t know if logging companies are cutting sustainably, and they lack information on what’s actually happening in the forests.

Loggers feel they can flout the law because fines are so small for violations of forestry regulations, says the report.

Meanwhile, the public doesn’t have much input into forestry, and has only “limited” confidence in the government’s management of the forests, the report adds.

Provincial forestry bureaucrats delivered the harsh appraisal in a report titled, “Updating the Forest System.” This document, dated Sept. 1998, came out of a year of internal consultations inside the ministry.

The 47-page report, obtained by The Nation, recommends many changes to forest management. One is that First Nations should be consulted and have a say in forestry management.

Over and over, the report warns that the government has poor information about how logging is affecting the forests.

“At the present time, the department is unable to state with any degree of certainty whether or not the sustainable yield is respected,” says the report.

“The department cannot confirm that all forest management permit holders have complied with all the provisions of the regulation, since it lacks

effective control mechanisms,” it says.

Louise Accolas, spokeswoman for Natural Resources Minister Jacques Brassard, refused to comment on the report. However, she added, “It goes without saying that the minister agrees with the document.”

The province used the report as the basis of a public consultation last fall on Quebec’s forest regime. Even though hundreds of copies circulated to environmentalists, unions, First Nations and other groups, the media has yet to pick up on the document.

The government is using the public’s responses to rewrite its forestry legislation. It is expected to table a new forestry law next summer or fall.

Laval University forestry professor Luc Bouthillier praised the report as “very honest,” but said it comes up short on concrete solutions. For example, the report admits the public isn’t consulted enough, but doesn’t say how the problem can be solved.

Bouthillier also said the philosophy of the report is still an old-school unsustainable style of forestry first cooked up in 1820.

The report is especially harsh on the government for not devoting enough resources to monitor logging: “Due to a lack of resources, not all offences are processed.”

Fines are so low that they “are insufficient to have a real dissuasive effect for offenders.” The report recommends “more dissuasive penalties” for companies.

The report concludes on a dismal note: “The departmental organization is beginning to run out of breath. The population’s confidence in the department as a forest manager is limited.”