The B.C. government is taking a new, holistic approach as a first step for the benefit of all British Columbians to protect old-growth forests.
This will include the protection of nine areas throughout the province, totalling almost 353,000 hectares.
In a break from the divisive practices of the past, government will engage the full involvement of Indigenous leaders and organizations, labour, industry and environmental groups to work together in conserving biodiversity while supporting jobs and communities, especially on the coast and Vancouver Island. The actions government is taking are informed by the independent panel report, A New Future for Old Forests.
“For many years, there has been a patchwork approach to how old-growth forests are managed in our province, and this has caused a loss of biodiversity. We need to do better and find a path forward that preserves old-growth forests, while supporting forest workers,” said Doug Donaldson, Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development. “Those who are calling for the status quo to remain are risking crucial biodiversity loss, while those who are calling for immediate moratoriums on logging are ignoring the needs of tens of thousands of workers. Our government believes in supporting workers, while addressing the needs of old-growth forests, and these values will guide our new approach.”
In July 2019, government appointed panel members Garry Merkel and Al Gorley to lead an old-growth strategic review. They gathered input and examined old-growth management from a variety of perspectives. On April 30, 2020, they submitted 14 recommendations to the Province in their report.
Merkel and Gorley outline a four-phased process government should undertake to develop and implement an old-growth strategy. The strategy consists of immediate actions in the first six months, near-term actions over six to 12 months, mid-term actions over six to 18 months and long-term actions over 18 to 36 months.
Initial actions government is taking in formulating an old-growth strategy include:
- engaging the full involvement of Indigenous leaders and organizations to review the report and work with the Province on any subsequent policy or strategy development and implementation;
- deferring old forest harvesting in nine areas throughout the province totalling 352,739 hectares as a first step, and committing to engaging, initiating or continuing discussions with Indigenous leaders;
- beginning work to address information gaps, update inventory and improve public access to information, and bring management of old forests into compliance with existing provincial targets and guidelines; and
- involving industry, environmental groups, community-based organizations and local governments in discussions regarding the report recommendations and the future of old-growth forests in B.C., and the social, economic and environmental implications for communities.
"Al and I appreciated engaging with people from all across the province in developing our recommendations,” Merkel said. “We have provided our recommendations to the minister and look forward to government’s response. We are also pleased that the Province has agreed that the first step in improving old-growth management is to adopt a government-to-government approach with full involvement of Indigenous leaders, governments and organizations in proposed changes.”
Further work is also underway to protect up to 1,500 exceptionally large, individual trees under the Special Tree Protection Regulation. This builds on government’s announcement in 2019 that it would develop a permanent approach to protecting big, iconic trees.
“Through this work to manage old-growth forests, we have an opportunity to embrace our commitments under B.C.’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act and work together with Indigenous peoples in visioning on economic development and planning for land-based decisions that impact their territories,” said Scott Fraser, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation. “We acknowledge and respect the traditional knowledge of Indigenous peoples that has been cultivated over millennia, because it is critical to a future for old-growth forests that ensures Indigenous peoples and all the generations to come continue to benefit from them.”
Read the report: https://engage.gov.bc.ca/oldgrowth
More information about British Columbia’s commitment to forest stewardship is available at: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/industry/forestry/managing-our-forest-resources
A backgrounder follows.