Environmental activists and Indigenous leaders are once again calling out the provincial government on unmet commitments regarding B.C. old-growth forests.
Monday marked the third anniversary of the B.C. NDP’s commitment to implement 14 recommendations made in the 2020 Old Growth Strategic Review (OSGR).
According to a number of organizations, none of the 14 recommendations have been fulfilled, while old-growth trees continue to be logged.
The Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBCIC), Sierra Club BC, Wilderness Committee and Stand.earth are calling on the B.C. government to make up for years of delays and further loss of threatened old growth. They want to the province to fast-track the implementation of all 14 recommendations from the OGSR, including immediate logging deferrals for the most at-risk old-growth forests.
“We are at an urgent crossroads amidst the rampant wildfires that have destroyed many communities in B.C. this year and many more are still rebuilding from previous wildfires,” said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, the UBCIC’s president.
“The sheer number of forests that we have lost to the climate crisis already, is devastating. The B.C. government cannot ignore this any longer; stop logging our old-growth trees and help us start rebuilding in an ethically and environmentally friendly manner.
“The OGSR recommendations are merely a stepping stone; we must go above and beyond. At this rate, there will be nothing left for our children. Stop putting profit and votes over people and get to work on saving our land, water, and air.”
The three-year anniversary comes during an unprecedented drought and wildfire season, which has burned more than 2.2 million hectares of land and forests.
These groups said industrial logging has exacerbated drought, wildfire and climate change issues.
“The last three years have been devastating in terms of escalating biodiversity and climate crises in forests in B.C., with continued habitat loss of at-risk species like caribou and spotted owl and two of the worst wildfire seasons on record,” said Jens Wieting, senior forest and climate campaigner at Sierra Club BC.
“Old-growth forests are more resilient to the impacts of climate change, but the window to preserve them is closing and the B.C. government must double its efforts to end the delays and make the promised paradigm shift a reality.”
According to the groups, the B.C. government has not yet shared how much old growth has been logged last year, or how much old-growth logging has been stopped through the deferrals process since 2020.
The latest available provincial data from 2019 to 2021 showed an annual old-growth logging rate equivalent to approximately 150 soccer fields per day, according to Sierra Club BC.
The Old-Growth Strategic Review panel released its report on Sept. 11, 2020, including 14 recommendations it said should be completed by 2023. These include immediate deferrals of logging in some of the most at-risk areas, support for communities to transition away from their reliance on logging old-growth and better engagement with impacted First Nations communities.
The B.C. Ministry of Forestry provided a statement through email.
“B.C.’s forests are critically important to people, communities and wildlife, and the Province is taking transformational action to protect old growth in partnership with First Nations rights and title holders. In line with our vision to take care of our rarest and oldest forests, we commissioned the Old Growth Strategic Review and are committed to all of its recommendations,” B.C. Minister Bruce Ralston said.
“In the past year, we have reached 2.25 million hectares of old growth deferred or protected since November 2021, with work on further deferrals underway with rights and title holders. We have updated laws and regulations to embed an ecosystem health approach in forestry decision making, and we’ve created the Silviculture Innovation Program to implement more alternatives to clear cutting, such as selective harvesting.”
“We have also accelerated the shift from industry-developed stewardship plans to Forest Landscape Plans developed in collaboration with local communities and First Nations to better manage for ecological and cultural values. By taking action now and building generational change, we can protect the most at-risk old growth forests around the province while we move to new ways to manage B.C. forests.”