Today the provincial government took steps towards protecting BC’s irreplaceable old growth forests, but the work is not done yet.
An Old Growth Technical Review Panel found that nearly 70 percent of BC’s old growth forests are unprotected and open to logging. The panel recommended the highest priority old growth stands for protection, including at-risk and endangered old growth stands within 2.6 million hectares of forests across the province. Forests Minister and West Kootenay MLA Katrine Conroy made the announcement today to implement these recommendations, alongside co-author of the Old Growth Strategic Review, Garry Merkel.
“For the first time in our province’s history we have a provincial government that is recognizing the desperate state of BC’s irreplaceable forests and the need to take immediate action to protect old growth. This is a major shift in how the BC government views old growth,” said Eddie Petryshen, Wildsight Conservation Specialist.
There is no more time to waste in protecting the last of our old growth forests in this province. Old growth ecosystems like the Inland Temperate Rainforest (ITR) are on the brink of ecosystem collapse. A peer reviewed scientific publication found that ecosystem collapse in B.C.’s rare Inland Temperate Rainforest is imminent in nine to 18 years if logging rates continue at current levels. The group refers to the ITR as “one of the world’s most imperiled temperate forests.”
A year ago, the government released findings from a provincial old growth strategic review. “A New Future for Old Forests” laid out 14 key recommendations to realize a paradigm shift in old growth management in BC.
“This is the first step in realizing the paradigm shift in BC forestry called for by the Old Growth Strategic Review that will manage our forests for ecosystem health not timber values,” says Petryshen. “Working in full partnership with Indigenous Nations on old growth deferrals and long-term protections is a major step in the right direction.”
British Columbians expect immediate action to protect these endangered forests, and will be watching our forests closely.
“Words must be turned into action; the time of BC’s ‘talk and log’ policy is over,” says Petryshen.
Today’s announcement is a promising start but there is much more to do. Further work is required to identify areas on the ground that contain high value old growth that are not shown on the maps or have already been slated for logging.
“While it is great to see BC immediately halt new BC Timber Sales (BCTS) blocks that overlap with the identified most at-risk old growth, Petryshen notes that this should be applied equally to all licensees in BC.
The announcement does not apply to active cutblocks or already permitted logging blocks. There is spectacular old growth in places like Mcmurdo Creek, the Bush River, Bigmount and Argonaut Creek, the Sullivan River, and the Seymour River that are slated to be logged.
British Columbia is one of the last jurisdictions in the world to still log irreplaceable old growth forests. BC’s strategy to protect biodiversity is almost exclusively reliant on retaining old growth forests. Biodiversity is, put simply, all of the living things that make this province so special. Old growth is one of the only things that is managed provincially for biodiversity. If we are failing old growth at a provincial scale, we are failing frogs, caribou, bull trout, salmon, and all of the living things that we collectively refer to as “biodiversity”.
“It’s essential that the province provide necessary support to workers and rural communities. New approaches will be vital as we make the difficult transition away from the unsustainable harvest of old growth and prioritize managing our forests for ecosystem health,” Petryshen says.