The B.C. government is launching new measures to protect more old growth by fast-tracking innovation and co-developing new local plans with First Nations to better care for B.C.’s forests.
“Our forests are foundational to B.C. In collaboration with First Nations and industry, we are accelerating our actions to protect our oldest and rarest forests,” said Premier David Eby. “At the same time, we will support innovation in the forestry sector so our forests can deliver good, family-supporting jobs for generations to come.”
At the centre of the eight-point plan is $25 million for new Forest Landscape Planning (FLP) tables that will drive improved old-growth management while incorporating local knowledge and community priorities. Enabled by 2021 amendments to the Forest and Range Practices Act, forest landscape plans are a more comprehensive and inclusive approach to forest stewardship that will replace existing, industry-developed plans.
In response to requests from First Nations for more in-depth discussions about old growth, this funding will support eight new regional FLP tables with the participation of approximately 50 First Nations. These tables will prevent harvesting in old-growth forests important for ecosystem health, biodiversity, clean water, carbon storage and Indigenous values. They will also provide greater certainty about the areas where sustainable harvesting can occur to support jobs and investment.
The announcement also includes ramping up government investments to support innovation in the forestry industry. The Province is doubling the new BC Manufacturing Jobs Fund to $180 million and expanding eligibility provincewide. The BC Manufacturing Jobs Fund will, for example, support mills to process smaller-diameter trees and manufacture higher-value wood products, such as mass timber. It will accelerate shovel-ready projects across the manufacturing ecosystem that will bring direct benefits and stable, family-supporting jobs to communities throughout the province. Previously, the fund was restricted to projects outside of the Metro Vancouver and the Capital regional districts.
“As we work to protect more old growth, we know we need to accelerate our efforts to build a stronger, more innovative forestry industry that better shares the benefits with workers and communities. Forestry is a foundation of B.C.’s economy,” said Bruce Ralston, Minister of Forests. “That’s why we are doubling provincial investments to help mills retrofit to get off old-growth logs and manufacture more high-value wood products right here in B.C., so we create more jobs from every tree.”
Additional actions to accelerate implementation of the Old Growth Strategic Review during the next year include:
- developing and implementing alternatives to clear-cutting practices, such as selective harvesting techniques, that better support forest resiliency, ecosystem health and climate adaptation, through a new $10-million silviculture innovation program;
- repealing outdated wording in the Forest and Range Practices Act regulations that prioritizes timber supply over all other forest objectives, like water quality, wildlife habitat and biodiversity;
- increasing Indigenous participation in co-developing changes to forest policy through $2.4 million provided to the First Nations Forestry Council;
- protecting more old-growth forests and biodiverse areas by leveraging hundreds of millions of dollars of philanthropic donations to fund conservation measures supported by the Province and First Nations, through a new conservation financing mechanism to be set up within six months;
- enabling local communities and First Nations to finance old-growth protection by selling verified carbon offsets that represent long-term emission reductions through the new Forest Carbon Offset Protocol 2.0, which will be finalized this year; and
- completing the Old Growth Strategic Action Plan by the end of 2023, to be developed in collaboration with First Nations and in consultation with stakeholders.
Since November 2021, the Province has been engaging with First Nations about deferring harvest within old-growth forests. Deferrals have now been implemented on approximately 2.1 million hectares of old growth. As recommended by the Old Growth Strategic Review, deferrals are intended to prevent biodiversity loss while the Province, First Nations and other partners develop a new, long-term approach to forest management that prioritizes ecosystem health and community resiliency.
The Technical Advisory Panel recommended that the Province implement deferrals within 2.6 million hectares of forests identified as most at risk of biodiversity loss. An additional 1.4 million hectares was already permanently protected.
Since November 2021, 11,600 hectares have been harvested while engagements with First Nations were underway. This is equal to less than 0.5% of the area recommended for deferral.
Nathan Cullen, Minister of Water, Land and Resource Stewardship –
“Old-growth forests are a part of who we are and we want to share all the benefits they offer for many generations to come. In the coming months, our government will develop a new conservation-financing mechanism that ensures British Columbians, as well as those individuals who share our love for B.C.’s iconic forests, can join in supporting protection of biodiverse areas throughout our province.”
George Heyman, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy –
“Our government is committed to working together with First Nations and communities to build a better future where forest ecosystem health is at the heart of forest stewardship and management. We are developing new transparent and verifiable rules for B.C. forest carbon offsets projects so Indigenous Peoples and communities can benefit through the large-scale storage of carbon that occurs in old-growth forests.”
Brenda Bailey, Minister of Jobs, Economic Development and Innovation –
“By expanding the B.C. Manufacturing Jobs Fund to include the entire province and doubling its funding, we’re ensuring more help is available for the needs of people and communities throughout B.C. This fund will create good-paying jobs for British Columbians by driving long-term economic diversification and sustainability as we build a clean and inclusive economy that works for everybody.”
Garry Merkel, independent coach and mentor for Old Growth Strategic Review (OGSR) implementation –
“When creating the Old Growth Strategic Review, Al Gorley and I had the honour of listening to people from all backgrounds and from all corners of the province as they shared their values on forests and forestry. One overriding theme was the need to ensure the continuity and integrity of our natural systems. Also clear was that we needed to have many voices around the table while doing so, in particular those of First Nations. As the Province continues to implement the OGSR recommendations and associated Forest and Range Practices Act changes – in this case, forest landscape-level planning – we are collaborating with First Nations as full partners to meaningfully engage stakeholders and manage the land to create healthy ecosystems with resilient forests that continue to provide many benefits for B.C. communities.”
Lennard Joe, CEO, First Nations Forestry Council –
“The BC First Nations Forestry Council is looking forward to continue working with the Province to modernize forest policy in B.C. The forestry council will continue to support Nations in efforts to increase their role in the governance and stewardship of forest lands and resources. The Province’s commitment to continue implementation of the Old Growth Strategic Review and to increase Forest Landscape Planning opportunities for First Nations are both vital to increasing the participation of First Nations in the forest sector as full partners.”
A backgrounder follows.