Signing of Resource Stewardship Agreements

By Todd C. Eastman, Former NOTO Research Analyst

A topic recently discussed internally and among MNR and MTR officials is when a Resource Stewardship Agreement or RSA should be signed by the tourist operator and forest company.

As RSAs are contractual arrangements between two businesses, a Sustainable Forest Licence (SFL) holder and a licensed Resource-Based Tourism Operator (RBTO), MNR, MTR, and NOTO have little role in the signing of what is essentially a business-to-business agreement. These parties however have an interest and role in making sure the RSA Process does not significantly frustrate the forest management planning process and timeline.

A RSA should be signed as soon as both negotiating parties feel they have a workable contract. It has been NOTO’s experience that SFL holders are generally uncomfortable signing RSAs before the Forest Management Plan (FMP) is approved and they are certain they can fulfil the obligations agreed to in RSA negotiations. For the RBTOs, they are unwilling to sign until the final allocations are made in the FMP and prescriptions to protect identified tourism values are finalized. For these reasons, the most effective and realistic time for the two parties to sign a RSA would be before FMP implementation and preferably before FMP approval (Stage 5 of FMP Public Consultation- refer to NOTO RSA Primer).

Although it makes most sense for the actual signing of a RSA to take place around FMP approval time, the negotiating parties must still submit important information to the Planning Team early in the forest management planning process. What must be submitted to the Planning Team ideally before the First Information Centre (Stage 2 of FMP Public Consultation), but more realistically, in advance of the Second Information Centre (Stage 3 of FMP Public Consultation), are those portions of the RSA affecting the FMP and therefore, subject to public review. These items will include: recommended tourism objectives/operating principles to be written into or considered in the FMP; a Tourism Values Map; and recommended AOC prescriptions and access management provisions to protect identified tourism values. NOTO is suggesting that RBTOs outline and submit these items to the Planning Team as Appendices to the RSA.

In summary we are recommending that RSAs be signed once proposed prescriptions have been subject to public review, finalized and the FMP has been approved. To insure these things happen, the negotiating parties must submit their intentions (in the form of Appendices) to the Planning Team in advance of the Second Information Centre.

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This article was taken from page 10 of NOTO's "The Outfitter" publication, September/October 2003 Issue

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