B.C. old-growth: Province proposes 2.6M hectare logging deferral
The B.C. government says logging deferrals could be coming to up to 2.6 million hectares of old-growth forest, pending discussions with affected First Nations.
The deferrals are based on recommendations from the Old Growth Strategic Review, which was presented in 2020 – and recent work completed by the independent Technical Advisory Panel (TAP).
Currently, the province has an estimated 11.1 million hectares of old-growth forest, of which 3.5 million is protected. The remaining 7.6 million is considered "unprotected," where logging is largely permitted.
TAP recommended deferring logging in old-growth areas that were considered particularly rare, such as "big tree old-growth," "ancient old-growth" and "rare old-growth."
These three types of old-growth forests account for 7.6 million hectares of the total 11.1 million hectares of old-growth in B.C.
While 3.5 million hectares of old-growth forest are already protected, the province says up to 2.6 million more could soon be deferred from logging for the next two years.
The B.C. government says the deferrals will be implemented if affected First Nations agree with the proposed harvesting restrictions. The province hopes to receive responses from impacted First Nations within the next 30 days.
"Deferral is not equivalent to protection; deferral maintains at-risk old forests in the short-term," reads a report from the Technical Advisory Panel.
The deferrals could lead to permanent harvesting restrictions, but nothing will be decided until a new old-growth management strategy is fully formed years from now.
IMPACTS ON INDUSTRY
The province says that it will be engaging with forestry workers on how to manage the economic impacts of the deferrals.
Current support programs in place for the industry will also be expanded as the deferrals are introduced, says the province.
"Programs will include connecting workers with short-term employment opportunities, education and skills training or funds to bridge to retirement," said the province in a statement Tuesday.
"The province will also work in partnership with business and communities to develop new supports that will assist rural communities to create jobs through diversified economies, infrastructure projects and innovation in industry."
The deferrals announced Tuesday are just one of 14 recommendations that were included in the Old Growth Strategic Review. The province says it is committed to implementing all 14 recommendations.
In the meantime, the province says it will "immediately cease" advertising and selling BC Timber Sales in the proposed areas.
A rough timeline of when the province plans to implement the 14 recommendations posed in the Old Growth Strategic Review are shown: Nov. 2, 2021 (Province of B.C.)
Conservation groups are slamming the provincial government's latest attempt at managing old-growth logging in B.C.
The groups and Indigenous land defenders say while maps and actual data about old-growth is helpful, this latest plan does not stop logging threats to the aged forests.
The groups have called for an outright ban of all old-growth logging in the province.
"There have been far too many misleading claims made about there being lots of old-growth left and we’re grateful to see that put to bed once and for all," said Torrance Coste with The Wilderness Committee.
"However, it’s been well over a year since the Old Growth Strategic Review. It’s way too late to just clarify intentions without acting on them," he said.
Coste adds that the proposed deferrals put affected First Nations in a difficult position.
"Without providing the means for First Nations to defer old-growth forests without potentially losing revenue, the government is forcing communities to make an impossible choice," Coste said in a communication from The Wilderness Committee.
The provincial plan does come with $12.69 million in capacity funding to support the deferral process for First Nations over the next three years.
Once the deferral period ends, the newly identified at-risk forests will either be added to B.C.’s list of off-limits logging zones, or included in new forest management plans.