The BC Forest Service: Mobilizing knowledge in a complex and unpredictable environment

The BC Forest Service, officially referred to as British Columbia’s Ministry of Forests and Range, has approximately 3,600 employees working in 45 offices throughout the province. It is the main agency responsible for protecting the public interest in the use of the province’s forests.

Approximately 95% of British Columbia’s forest and range lands are publicly owned and managed by the provincial government on behalf of the public. The BC Forest Service includes a wide range of business areas such as Fire Management, Forest Health, First Nations, Stewardship, Range, Tenure and Engineering, Timber Sales and others.

Many BC Forest Service employees began their careers working in forests, and have operational, technical or scientific skills. The organization has a high number of long-term staff, and employees we interviewed described the Forest Service as a family. The Forest Service culture was also described as well-established given the high number of long-term staff and the relative stability on the land base as a result of long term tenure arrangements. Many employees consider “real work” to be work in the field, away from boardrooms and computers.

The work across the organization varies. Some work is complicated but predictable and repeatable. However, in recent years the environment and therefore more of the work has become more complex and unpredictable. Several significant trends and issues are impacting the Forest Service, from wide economic swings and increase in globalization of markets, to climate change.