1.7 million hectares of old growth deferred in partnership with First Nations (flickr.com)

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Ministry of Forests
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Old growth deferrals by the numbers
Updated May 11, 2022

There are approximately 11.1 million hectares of old growth in B.C., which covers approximately 12% of the entire province and 20% of B.C.’s forested land base. Of this, 3.5 million hectares of old growth, or one-third, is protected. Old growth harvesting in unprotected areas has decreased by 40% over the past five years. In 2020, 33,262 hectares of old growth were harvested; this represents 0.3% of the total old growth in B.C.

The Old Growth Strategic Review recommended that: “Until a new strategy is implemented, defer development in old forests where ecosystems are at very high and near-term risk of irreversible biodiversity loss.” Deferrals can be implemented in two ways: by licensees agreeing to voluntarily pause harvest; or by a minister’s order under Part 13 of the Forest Act, rescinding approved permits and preventing new permits from being issued. 

In September 2020, the Province implemented nine deferrals in partnership with First Nations on 196,000 hectares of old growth forests throughout B.C. In June 2021, the Province implemented deferrals on 2,000 hectares of old growth in the Fairy Creek watershed and central Walbran areas at the request of the Pacheedaht, Ditidaht and Huu-ay-aht First Nations.

In November 2021, the Province released the findings of the independent Old Growth Technical Advisory Panel. The panel included registered foresters and scientific experts who identified old growth forests in B.C. that are most at risk of irreversible biodiversity loss and should be prioritized for old growth deferrals. Provincial forestry professionals worked with the panel to confirm updated data on old growth and reach agreement on the methodology. The panel identified three types of at-risk old growth: ancient, remnant and big-treed. The panel identified four million hectares of priority at-risk old growth throughout B.C., 1.4 million hectares of which was already permanently protected. These forests are considered the oldest, rarest and/or most ecologically important in the province.

In November 2021, the Province started engagements with First Nations rights and titleholders on the deferral of old growth in their territories. To support the deferral process, BC Timber Sales paused advertising and selling licences in areas that overlap with the priority at-risk old growth identified by the panel. BC Timber Sales will only reopen sales in these areas if requested by a First Nations for their territory. Engagement with many First Nations on old growth deferrals is ongoing.

The tables below summarize the old growth that is deferred as of April 1, 2022.

Priority at-risk old growth (identified by Technical Advisory Panel):

  • Total identified: 4 million hectares
  • Protected: 1.4 million hectares
  • Unprotected: 2.6 million hectares
    • Deferred: 1.05 million hectares
    • Uneconomic to harvest (outside the Timber Harvesting Land Base): 660,000 hectares
  • Total currently not threatened by logging: 3.12 million hectares (78%)

All old growth:

  • Priority at-risk old growth deferred: 1.05 million hectares
  • Other old growth forests deferred:
    • Prior to November 2021: 198,000 hectares
    • Since November 2021: 619,000 hectares
  • Total deferred: 1.87 million hectares

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Ministry of Forests

Media Relations
250 896-4320
Forestry worker, community and industry supports

The Province is working to ensure that co-ordinated and comprehensive supports are in place to offset any economic impacts that may follow from new restrictions on harvesting old growth forests. Budget 2022 included $185 million in funding over three years to support workers and contractors, communities, First Nations and businesses affected by old growth deferrals.

This funding will expand and enhance existing support programs:

  • Forest Employment Program – creating short-term employment for forestry contractors and their employees.
  • Skills Training for Job Pathways – connecting workers and communities with skills training and educational opportunities.
  • Bridging to Retirement program – providing as much as $75,000 to eligible forestry workers and contractors 55 or older to transition to retirement, helping to open up jobs for younger workers.
  • Community Transition Rapid Response Teams – delivering on-the-ground economic development and community support services.
  • Rural Business and Community Recovery initiative – funding to hire advisers to support rural businesses and communities with strategic decision making.

The Province is also developing new programs that will support forestry workers, communities and industry over the next three years, including:

  • industry innovation through value-added forestry and made-in-B.C. manufacturing;
  • rural economic development and infrastructure projects that will create jobs by promoting diversification and community resiliency; and
  • a new worker training and job opportunity office within government to bridge and leverage cross-ministry connections to drive forward rural economic development and diversification.

To provide advice on program development and implementation, the Province will be striking a forestry worker supports and community resiliency council. The council will include industry, labour, Indigenous and municipal leaders, and will help ensure programs are targeted and providing supports where they are need most.

In addition, BC Timber Sales is engaging with industry to re-design and expand its Category 2 sales program that provides fibre access to value-added forestry companies throughout B.C.

More information on support for forest workers and communities is available here: www.gov.bc.ca/forestworkersupport.com

Media Contacts

Ministry of Forests

Media Relations
250 896-4320