No comprehensive strategy to protect ancient forests in BC

Position statement by Raincoast Conservation Foundation opposing logging of priceless forests at Fairy Creek.

Shauna Doll, Raincoast Gulf Islands Forest Project Coordinator, submitted a letter to The Honourable Katrine Conroy, Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development (FLNRO), and The Honourable Nathan Cullen, Minister of State for Lands and Natural Resource Operations on March 30th.

Re: Logging at Fairy Creek

Dear Ministers Conroy & Cullen,

I am writing from Coast Salish Territory on behalf of Raincoast Conservation Foundation in support of the recommendations made to the BC government in the “A New Future for Old Forests” report authored by the old growth independent review panel, Misters Garry Merkle and Al Gorley.

In 1992, the BC government designed a management strategy for old growth forests, but piecemeal implementation hindered its efficacy and it ultimately failed to alleviate the pressure unduly exerted on BC’s old growth ecosystems. FLNRO’s recognition of the failure of this approach was reflected in Minister Conroy’s response to Leader of the Third Party, Sonia Furstenau, during question period on March 11th: “for too long, there has been a divisive and patchwork approach to how old-growth forests [have been] managed in [this] province”.

Continuing to allow business-as-usual approaches in the province’s oldest forests is not only out of step with scientific consensus but also at odds with provincial climate targets and the recently released federal climate action plan.  Tweet This!

Yet, later during that same question period it was expressed that FLNRO has “initiated action” on just four of the old growth panel’s fourteen recommendations. One of these actions was to defer logging in nine old growth areas amounting to 353,000 ha. However, 44% of that land area has been described as second-growth, clearcut, or non-forested, and 100% of that protection expires in two years.

This piecemeal implementation is disquietingly reminiscent of what occurred in the early 90’s. Now, nearly 30 years later the province still has no comprehensive old growth strategy.

In interviews and question periods it has been repeatedly stated that FLNRO is “committed” and “dedicated” to implementing the recommendations proposed by the old growth report but those statements are often followed by the caveat that “it will take time”. We argue that there is no time left.  

In the words of Merkle and Gorley “the priorities that currently drive our forest management system are backwards. Rather than determine what must be done to maintain ecosystem health and resilience, and then what social and economic benefits we can derive within that guidance, we often do the opposite.” 

The impacts of human caused climate change on forests are undeniable and intensifying. Decades of research has documented the consequences of a changing climate on forest ecosystems including increased tree mortality, altered rates of growth, and lowered productivity (Case et al., 2021). More recent studies have documented the implications of warming temperatures, shifting moisture regimes, and variable weather patterns on forest regeneration after disturbance events like wildfire and industrial logging (Stevens-Rumann, 2018).

There is no time left.  Tweet This!

Increasingly, forests the world over are failing to naturally regenerate, and drier conditions are expected to increase the frequency and severity of disturbance events like fire. This means more and more disturbance with less and less regeneration. More locally, the report BC’s Old Growth Forests: A Last Stand for Biodiversity” by scientists Karen Price, Rachel Holt, and Dave Daust, found that less than 3% of sites in BC have the potential to grow very large trees and due to intense harvesting only 2.7% is left. They describe these forests as the “white rhinos” of old growth and state with certainty that they will not recover from logging. 

In the past several weeks there has been increasing public outcry and media coverage over FLNRO’s hesitancy to implement the independent panel’s recommendations, largely triggered by the conflict over Fairy Creek on Pacheedaht Territory. This watershed is one of the last remaining intact old growth forests south of Clayoquot Sound on Vancouver Island, populated by massive yellow cedars and western hemlocks. Despite much recent dialogue between party leaders on this subject, FLNRO  has not clearly stated whether logging will be permitted to proceed. 

We are writing today to implore you to defer logging in this ancient forest. Continuing to allow business-as-usual approaches in the province’s oldest forests is not only out of step with scientific consensus but also at odds with provincial climate targets and the recently released federal climate action plan. We do not have time for piecemeal approaches and symbolic gestures, the time for meaningful action was yesterday.

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