B.C. identifies 2.6 million hectares of old growth at high risk of irreversible loss, but delays logging deferrals

Tuesday November 02, 2021

After Canada makes a pledge to protect forests at COP26, B.C. must deliver on promised action on old growth

səl̓ílwətaʔɬ (Tsleil-Waututh), xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), and Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish) Territories (Vancouver, BC) — Stand.earth is encouraged today by the B.C. government’s acknowledgement that at least 2.6 million hectares are in need of urgent logging deferrals. However, amid ongoing talks in Glasgow to address the climate crisis, old growth logging continues in areas at risk of irreversible biodiversity loss as the government delays concrete action.

In new maps, recommendations, and analysis released today, B.C.’s old growth technical advisory panel found that 2.6 million hectares of old growth forest are at high risk of irreversible diversity loss and must be immediately deferred from logging. In response, the provincial government announced only a halt on B.C. Timber Sales auctions in areas overlapping with identified priority areas (not including cutblocks already auctioned) and promised additional deferrals at an unspecified future date.

“While we’re encouraged by the government’s intention, we aren’t going to pop the champagne until the trees stop falling,” said Tzeporah Berman, International Program Director for Stand.earth. “The Provincial government needs to ensure Indigenous Nations and local communities will be kept whole and have the economic support they need to stop the logging of old growth forests.”

Stand.earth applauds the work of the old growth technical advisory panel, which lays a vital roadmap for priority action to protect at-risk old growth forests and a paradigm-shift for forest management in B.C. In addition to identifying priority old growth deferral areas, the panel clarified provincial numbers on remaining old growth and found recommended additional deferrals in mature second growth forests where ecosystems are especially fragmented.

“Today’s announcement confirms what we already know: old growth forests are in dire need of urgent protection, or we risk irreversible loss -- for these forest ecosystems, for our communities, and the climate,” said Tegan Hansen, Forest Campaigner at Stand.earth. “In the face of ongoing violence against forest defenders and a global climate crisis, we’re long past the time when small steps and promises are enough: we need real action now.”

Over a year ago, the B.C. NDP government committed to implementing all 14 recommendations from a previous old growth panel report, which was submitted in April 2020. That report gave the B.C. government a 6-month timeline for identifying priority old growth and implementing logging deferrals, out of a 3-year total timeline for implementing all 14 recommendations, including fully involving Indigenous Nations in long term decision-making and a large-scale shift in forestry to prioritize ecological values over timber values.

Despite promises to respect Indigenous rights and decision-making over their territories, the province’s lack of funding to support Nations makes government rhetoric little more than virtue signalling. An open letter sent to the province earlier from the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) and environmental groups including Stand.earth made this issue abundantly clear to the B.C. NDP government:

"The current landscape of old-growth logging has been exacerbated over years by successive BC governments working to commercialize all old growth timber and foster an economic dependence on old-growth logging in First Nations communities. They have achieved this by arranging agreements for revenue-sharing, employment, joint ventures, and tenures for old growth timber in contentious areas for First Nations, who face limited economic opportunities as a result of years of colonialism and racism.

With a lack of critical and accessible funding, combined with the government’s overwhelming influence resulting in Indigenous dependency on old-growth logging jobs and revenues, First Nations communities are unable to exercise their Title and Rights to freely pursue other economic options consistent with the protection of old-growth forests and Indigenous self-determination. Therefore, consultations conducted by the provincial government without the requisite funding for sustainable economic alternatives maintains the status quo of old-growth logging while removing Indigenous self-determination, decision making and well-being in conservation and stewardship."

Forest defenders continue to face dangerous police violence at Ada’itsx (Fairy Creek) as they protect some of the few remaining old growth forests left anywhere in the province. Today’s announcement failed to secure any logging deferrals or protections for those forests despite clear inclusion on maps and recommendations from the old growth technical advisory panel. Indigenous land defenders and their allies continue to invite people to join them, and are fundraising to winterize camps in the area.

“The province must act urgently to implement logging deferrals and provide concrete funding options for Nations to make old growth protection a viable economic option,” continued Berman. “Instead of taking responsibility for the crisis, including financial responsibility, the province is putting many First Nations in an untenable position that could lead to revenue loss and conflict.”

Protection for old growth forests has overwhelming public support in British Columbia. A recent poll found over 85 per cent of people across the province support an end to old growth logging, and recent calls by Indigenous leaders have increased pressure to protect Elder Trees. The ongoing Indigenous-led land defense at Ada’itsx has seen over 1,000 people arrested while defending old growth forests, making it the largest act of civil disobedience in Canada’s history.

Stand.earth is calling for the immediate implementation of logging deferrals across all priority areas identified by the old growth technical advisory panel, including areas where forest defenders continue to risk their safety at Ada’itsx (Fairy Creek), as well as concrete funding for the promised paradigm-shift for forestry that maintains and restores vital ecological values, fully upholds Indigenous sovereignty and rights, and supports forest communities.

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Media contacts:

Ziona Eyob, Media Director - Canada, canmedia@stand.earth, +1 604 757 7279 (Pacific Time)