BC’s Ancient Forests At Risk As Logging Commitments Fall Short

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Endangered ancient forests in British Columbia continue to face environmental distress, exacerbating the worries of conservation groups. Three years ago, the promises made by the province to safeguard the ancient ecosystems and revolutionize forestry practices have fallen short of execution. A stark lack of fulfillment of the fourteen recommendations laid out in the 2020 Old Growth Strategic Review (OGSR) is the central concern, according to Torrance Coste, the national campaign director for the Wilderness Committee.

The crux of the OGSR recommendations was the deferral of logging in biologically diverse and endangered regions, protection of towering trees, enhanced engagement of First Nations and communities in forestry decisions, and augmented transparency and public reporting of forestry activities. Still, logging in old-growth regions facing immediate ecological threats has not been sufficiently deferred, observes Coste.

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Conservation enthusiasts alongside First Nations have frequently observed and reported unbridled logging activities. These persevering pursuits have been conducted in regions identified as priority endangered areas by the old-growth technical advisory panel as of November 2021.

Ground checks carried out by environmental organizations since the 2020 commitment have substantiated clearcuts and road building activities in endangered areas in the B.C. Interior and Vancouver Island.

The depletion of forests is also detected by Forest Eye; a technological system designed by Stand.earth that utilizes satellite imagery to collect data and alert users about forestry activities in priority regions.

The verdict among forestry experts is clear – every trace of productivity in old-growth forests is indispensable, observes Coste. However, the loss of these forests is relentless and running at an alarming pace, rendering any old-growth inventory map obsolete from the moment of its creation.

The continuing delay in protective measures for ancient forests clashes sourly with the backdrop of an extraordinary summer characterized by unprecedented droughts and record-breaking wildfires. Jens Wieting, a senior forest and climate campaigner with Sierra Club BC, underscores the increasing value of old growth as fires, exacerbated by climate change and industrial logging practices, have ransacked over 2.2 million hectares of land across the province.

The province’s logging deferrals initiated in April 2022 account for only 40% of the identified 2.6 million hectares of the province’s most endangered, oldest, rarest, or ecologically vital spots. An alarming lack of transparency regarding the exact coverage of priority deferrals, their potential overlap with timber harvesting regions, and the amount of old-growth spared from logging thus far persists.

Mirroring the same opacity is the status of at-risk old-growth forests, which have been logged since the inception of the new approach in 2020. Conservation communities and the public, despite consistent inquisition, have been kept in the dark about these figures, Coste worries.

The B.C. Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development has cited confidentiality of talks between the province and First Nations as a reason for not disclosing information about priority old-growth areas. The ministry remains silent on the total amount of logging conducted in priority old-growth areas to date.

Complicating matters further, conservation groups and First Nations have criticized the B.C. NDP for not providing financial compensation to Nations for deferring logging in their territories. Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, has brought attention to the urgent crossroads First Nations find themselves in, following devastating wildfires that ravaged numerous communities.

Phillip highlights the dire need for protecting old-growth forests and advocating for rebuilding in an eco-friendly and ethically mindful manner. Meanwhile, communities across the province are rallying for a day of action on September 28 to echo their demand that politicians honor the NDP’s old-growth pledge. Thousands, Coste affirms, remain committed to reminding the NDP of the promises they may hope to conveniently forget.