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Students from Charles Bloom high school in Lumby, B.C., run a cable out to a cut log to be towed as part of the school’s forestry program.

John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail

The Liberal government is poised to change the way public forests are managed in B.C., a move bound to generate criticism from environmental groups who will see the move as putting public land in private hands.

Forest Minister Steve Thomson announced a consultation program that will consider public and industry opinion over shifting forest land management to area-based tenures from its current land-based tenure system.

Forest companies are currently allotted their timber harvest rights on specified numbers of trees, but the changes propose to give companies harvest rights to land areas.

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Last year, the government withdrew similar plans to amend the Forest Act after environmental groups and industry activists protested, characterizing the move to area-based tenures as the forest giveaway bill.

Thomson said last March when the Liberals shelved the changes that they require broader public consultation.

The government has hired professional forester Jim Snetsinger to run the public engagement process and provide a report to government by the end of June.

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