Old growth logging in candidate deferral areas underestimated, more than 50 per cent higher than figures reported by B.C. government
November 8, 2023
səl̓ílwətaʔɬ (Tsleil-Waututh), xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), and Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish) Territories (Vancouver, BC) – New satellite analysis from Stand.earth Research Group reveals that logging of old growth candidate deferral areas is more than 50 per cent higher than figures reported by the British Columbia government.
An estimated 31,800 hectares of candidate old growth deferrals have been logged since the release of the April 2020 Old Growth Strategic Review, when industry first became aware that B.C. could put rare and valuable old growth stands off limits to harvest. These latest findings are based on data collected through Forest Eye, a new tool developed by Stand.earth Research Group, and GIS analysis of B.C. government data on historic cutblocks.
“These shocking numbers suggest that not only did the province underestimate the loss of at-risk old growth due to logging, they also hid the fact that in the time between the recommendation for deferrals and the start of that process, several thousand hectares of rare and at-risk old growth were logged by the industry,” said Tegan Hansen, Senior Forest Campaigner at Stand.earth. “How much more evidence will it take for B.C.’s government to stick to its promises and save these last standing giants?”
Logging in the most rare and at-risk old growth forests has continued at an alarming rate since Premier Eby pledged to accelerate action on old growth in November 2022. Forest Eye data shows that logging in candidate old growth deferrals has not gone down during his tenure, compared to the previous year.
Forest Eye analysis also shows which forests are disproportionately impacted by resource extraction. Between April 2020 and October 2023, about 50 per cent of all logging in candidate old growth deferrals occurred in the Northern Interior – specifically, spruce-dominated forests in the Skeena and Omineca regions.
“By using landmark satellite surveillance technology to turn an eye on the logging practices in these forests, communities have access to all the data they need in order to hold Premier Eby and his government accountable, and ultimately keep old growth forests from falling,” said Angeline Robertson, Senior Researcher for Stand.earth Research Group and Forest Eye lead.
In February 2023, the B.C. government cited 11,600 hectares of candidate old growth deferrals that had been logged since November 2021, when detailed maps from the Old Growth Technical Advisory Panel were publicly released. Forest Eye analysis reveals that the actual loss in February 2023 was 57 per cent higher than that government tally. And even more candidate old growth deferrals were logged throughout the year – using Forest Eye to track logging as recently as October 2023, a total of at least 31,800 hectares of candidate old growth deferrals have been logged since 2020 – representing a stark view of the provincial government’s failure to keep at-risk old growth forests standing. Alerts generated by Forest Eye must be screened manually before confirmed logging or road-building is posted to the website – meaning that this estimate is conservative, representing only a portion of actual old growth loss.
Forest Eye is a first-of-its-kind public tool for B.C., designed based on systems that track illegal logging in tropical rainforests. Developed by award-winning researchers at Stand.earth Research Group, it features a live map and database is continuously updated to share public alerts about forest destruction. Forest Eye uses government data on logging permits and old growth, in combination with remote sensing and satellite imagery, to detect and confirm logging and road-building in the most at-risk old growth forests.
Forest Eye was created after years of delays by the B.C. NDP government to deliver on its promise to implement all 14 recommendations from the Old Growth Strategic Review. In order to honour his promise to accelerate action on old growth, Premier Eby must:
- Make immediate use of recently announced funds to provide full and urgent financial support to First Nations to ensure deferrals are economically viable, including compensation for revenue-sharing agreements and employment.
- 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.
- 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.
In the months ahead, researchers will continue combing through hundreds of alerts, screening each one and posting those that confirm logging of old growth forests to Forest Eye. Anyone can subscribe to email alerts or access them via social media to track ongoing logging in old growth forests and proposed deferral areas.
Ziona Eyob, Media Director – Canada, firstname.lastname@example.org, +1 604 757 7279 (Pacific Time)