Immediate measures to stop logging at-risk old growth still needed after B.C. government announcement
February 16, 2023
səl̓ílwətaʔɬ (Tsleil-Waututh), xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), and Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish) Territories (Vancouver, BC) – After a new announcement on forests yesterday from the British Columbia government, the Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) and Stand.earth remain deeply concerned about the ongoing and imminent risk to old growth forests throughout the province. We are once again calling on Premier David Eby to deliver on his promise to accelerate action on immediate old growth protections.
“The status quo cannot prevail when it comes to old growth forests. Premier Eby must take concrete steps to accelerate immediate action on old growth beyond the long-term measures announced yesterday,” said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs. “Our future generations are counting on us to leave them with the legacy of these rich, irreplaceable forests. But even as Premier Eby and his government made their announcement, sadly clearcut logging continues in our precious old growth stands.”
When he took office, Premier Eby pledged to accelerate action on old growth within his first 100 days. Yesterday’s announcement came just over a week before his 100th day, coinciding with a large old growth rally planned for Saturday, February 25 at the BC Legislature.
While the announcement included some good long-term steps including funding for the First Nations Forestry Council, notably absent were new measures to ensure that at-risk old growth forests will be off-limits to logging in the meantime. The BC government also announced some misleading figures on the status of old growth logging deferrals. While the province stated that 11,600 hectares of proposed old growth deferrals have been logged since November 2021, satellite analysis by Stand.earth Research Group released by UBCIC and Stand.earth last year estimated that thousands of hectares were also logged prior to November 2021. The announcement also reported that 2.1 million hectares of old growth had been deferred, but failed to clarify how much of that included the most at-risk old growth previously identified by the province’s Technical Advisory Panel.
“Old growth forests are not merely a commercialized product or a fibre supply, but are the foundation of a vibrant, biodiverse ecosystem that First Nations have cultivated and stewarded since time immemorial,” continued Grand Chief Stewart Phillip. “It is long past time for this government to move on from incremental shifts to real, transformational change that respects the many values of these forests and fully upholds First Nations Title and Rights.”
Some positive measures were included in yesterday’s announcement, including new and expanded funding to support landscape level planning, value-added milling, and communities. However, more funding is needed to directly support First Nations Title holders impacted by both forest policy changes and the effects of industrial logging on cultural and ecological values. The transformational change required for forest communities and workers will require significant investment in more than these funds.
Eliminating the unduly clause (which blocks actions that would “unduly reduce the supply of timber”) will also help remove technical language that prevents the BC government from prioritizing ecological and community values over profits. However, yesterday’s announcement was alarmingly unclear on this timeline and, as existing plans are not affected by the change, the clause may persist for as long as 5 years for plans that have been recently renewed.
“We look forward to seeing Premier Eby’s vision for old growth translate into meaningful action on the ground. In particular, his government must take immediate action to keep the most at-risk old growth forests standing – something that was missing from yesterday’s announcement,” said Tegan Hansen, Senior Forest Campaigner at Stand.earth. “For people who are worried about the last remaining big-treed old growth, this announcement will not ease their very real concerns. We’ll be coming together at the BC Legislature on February 25 to demand a more hopeful future for forests.”
In order to deliver on his promise to accelerate action on old growth, Premier Eby must:
- Immediately stop logging in at-risk old growth forests, including the areas mapped by the Old Growth Technical Advisory Panel, especially where logging and road building is continuing, as well as additional areas that meet the criteria for at-risk old growth and any areas identified by First Nations.
- Provide full and urgent financial support to First Nations to ensure deferrals are economically viable, including compensation for revenue-sharing agreements and employment, and work with the federal government to secure a substantial increase in funding to support Indigenous-led land use planning and protection.
- Ensure fully accessible and transparent information about forests and logging – including by releasing updated maps and data showing where recent, ongoing and planned logging overlaps with at-risk old growth – and full compliance with Free, Prior and Informed Consent and the rights of Title holders.
Ellena Neel, UBCIC Communications Director – firstname.lastname@example.org
Ziona Eyob, Media Director – Canada, email@example.com, +1 604 757 7279 (Pacific Time)