We need an immediate ban on old growth logging in B.C. – here’s why
We need an immediate ban on old growth logging in B.C. – here’s why
Tuesday December 15, 2020

British Columbia is known for iconic old growth forests, but less than 1% all forests in the province have big, old trees left standing. In April, the old growth review panel’s report issued 14 recommendations for the B.C. government to protect these ancient forests. The most urgent recommendation called for a logging ban in the most at-risk old growth forests across B.C within six months.

B.C. used to have long intact stretches of these giant trees, but now the sad reality is they are incredibly fragmented – teetering on the brink of extinction.

 

The B.C. government previously misled the public about the protection of these giants

In September, the B.C. government claimed that the equivalent of 353,000 hectares of forest was being deferred from logging. They communicated this as bold action and it was celebrated as such. What they didn’t tell the public is that most of what was banned already resides in protected areas, was not threatened by logging in the first place, or was not even old growth forest. Only about 3,800 of the remaining 415,000 hectares of old growth that’s left was included. That’s less than 1%. So why did the B.C. government deceive us?

Old growth forests are vital to mitigate climate change

The logging industry has been in steady decline over the past few decades, with mill closures and job losses province-wide. But instead of centering communities and workers in long-term solutions and investing in local second-growth milling, the B.C. government has been continuing business as usual – propping up major corporations and clearcutting some of the most carbon rich forests on the planet. Logged trees are now emitting more than what’s still standing can absorb. This has resulted in more than a billion tonnes of excess CO2 in the atmosphere. 

Old growth forests sequester 30-50 times more carbon than secondary growth forests (once logged forests that have been replanted). These second growth forests are logged on a much shorter timeline, so they are never able to grow long enough to store nearly as much carbon. In fact, it can take hundreds of years of regrowth for temperate rainforests in BC to recapture the majority of carbon stored pre-logging. They are the lungs of our planet.

In the past year record breaking fires raged across the western side of the U.S., covering the west coast of B.C. in thick smoke. The same climate driven catastrophe occurred around the world in areas like Australia, Siberia and the Amazon. Avoiding a full-blown climate crisis requires us to reduce all our emissions to zero by 2030, but the B.C. government is throwing us way off target. 

What’s more, these old forests are a refuge for wildlife, including species at risk of extinction. Since they have developed over hundreds, sometimes thousands of years, their ecosystems are incredibly biodiverse. They also offer protection for our communities in the face of climate driven fires and floods – a critical component of our resilience.

A long term strategy must center Indigenous rights

All old growth forests are on Indigenous lands. While taking this immediate action to protect old growth is critical for their protection is dire, the province must work in partnership with Indigenous Nations to build long-term strategies for forests that respect Indigenous sovereignty and support economic alternatives. This means free, prior, and informed consent for all logging. 

Even though the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act was enacted in B.C. a year ago, many Nations are still being forced to engage in court action to secure land rights and stop old growth logging on their territories. The Nuchatlaht Nation – whose territory is on Vancouver Island – is currently fighting a groundbreaking title case to claim their land on Nootka Island, which has been devastated by industrial logging for almost a century.

Immediate action is required to save these ancient forests

On the campaign trail during the B.C. election in October 2020, the NDP committed to implement all 14 old growth review panel recommendations. That means immediately banning the logging of at-risk old growth forests now that they've taken office. But while the B.C. government received this call to action in April, they are still procrastinating. And election promises mean nothing without a detailed plan to make them a reality.

“Only the John Horgan of 2020 or 2021 will be able to keep the promises he made last week — by 2022 or 2023 and beyond, much of the forests the report suggests taking action on will probably be gone.” Khelsilem - Squamish-Kwakwa̱ka̱’wakw elected leader for the Squamish Nation | Excerpt from The Tyee, October 2020.
 
 

Public pressure has been building to protect these last standing giants. These culturally significant forests have been cherished by Indigenous Nations for millenia. Settlers living in the Pacific Northwest have also grown a deep appreciation for them; and as an international audience learns of their importance to mitigate the impacts of climate change, the support to protect them continues to grow. 50,000+ people from the Stand.earth community alone have called on the government to take immediate action and ban old growth logging in B.C.

The new NDP majority government must break clean from their poor track record. Here’s what you can do to help keep the pressure up:

  1. Send an email to the new Minister of Forests

  2. Share the short old growth video

  3. Sign the petition calling on the B.C. government to immediately ban old growth logging