The Government of British Columbia has brought together an independent Old Growth Technical Advisory Panel to support its next steps in its science-based approach to transforming old growth management.
“This new technical panel will ensure we’re using the best science and data available to identify at-risk old growth ecosystems and prioritize areas for deferral,” said Katrine Conroy, Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development. “We are committed to a science-based approach to old growth management, and our work with the advisory panel will help us break down barriers between the different interpretations of data that are out there.”
The five members of the Old Growth Technical Advisory Panel will build on initial technical work by government and others to provide maps, analysis and detailed information on the status of old growth forest ecosystems in B.C. This work will be critical to improving public information on old growth, consistent with Recommendation 5 from the Old Growth Strategic Review, and will help inform government-to-government decisions with First Nations on future deferral areas. Decisions on specific deferrals will continue to be made at a government-to-government level with First Nations rights and title holders.
The technical panel will also provide recommendations and advice on priority areas for development of deferrals that will aid in government-to-government engagement. This work addresses a priority recommendation of the independent strategic review panel on old growth – Recommendation 6 – to defer development in old forests where ecosystems are at very high and near-term risk of irreversible biodiversity loss, until a new strategy is implemented.
“I am hopeful that this step marks a movement towards increased transparency and towards the promised paradigm shift needed to maintain ecological resilience and biodiversity” said Karen Price, forest ecologist and Old Growth Technical Advisory Panel member.
In September 2020, government released the report of the Old Growth Strategic Review and committed to adopting all 14 of its recommendations. To date, 11 areas of old growth throughout B.C. have been deferred from harvest, most recently in the Fairy Creek watershed and central Walbran area.
“Old growth forests provide unique and critical habitats that preserve biodiversity, support clean watersheds and capture carbon crucial to reducing our province’s climate footprint,” said George Heyman, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy. “This panel’s work will be a key element in transforming forestry and conservation practices here in B.C. by drawing on science to ensure that the important range of old growth forest values are protected for generations to come.”
Government is also addressing the old growth panel’s high priority recommendation to consult with Indigenous peoples and has committed to continued consultations and work on further deferrals with First Nations rights and titleholders.
To view the Old Growth Technical Advisory Panel terms of reference, visit: https://news.gov.bc.ca/files/Old_Growth_Adv_%20Tech_Panel_TermsOfReference.pdf
Old growth forests and B.C.’s approach: www.gov.bc.ca/oldgrowth
B.C.’s latest old growth deferral areas: https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2021PREM0038-001122
Two backgrounders follow.