B.C. to protect 54 old-growth trees, but critics say it's not enough
Ancient Forest Alliance campaigner TJ Watt is seen next to a bigleaf maple tree in this undated handout photo. Conservationists in British Columbia are pushing for protections on an area of old-growth forests that they describe as "Canada's most magnificent." (THE CANADIAN PRESS/TJ Watt, Ancient Forest Alliance)
As pressure mounts from environmentalists, the government has moved to protect 54 old-growth trees around the province.
The Ministry of Forests announced Wednesday that it would protect 54 known big trees around the province and the one-hectare areas around them, which ensures they cannot be cut down.
The list includes two massive Arbutus trees in Greater Victoria and Nanaimo, two coastal Douglas fir trees in Greater Victoria and a towering Garry oak in the Cowichan Valley. The registry maintains 347 trees in total.
"This province is fortunate to have trees that have been standing in place for hundreds of years - some for more than a thousand," forests minister Doug Donaldson said in a statement. "We want to protect these majestic giants so today's families and future generations can enjoy them, just like our parents and grandparents did."
Donaldson also promised a "broader conversation" about the future of old-growth trees in B.C. that will include permanent regulation changes.
This fall, a two-person panel will consult with First Nations, industry leaders and other stakeholders about managing old-growth trees and forests.
The panel will report back to the province in spring 2020 with recommendations "that are expected to inform a new approach to old-growth management for British Columbia."
The government says 55 per cent of Crown-managed old-growth forests on B.C.'s coast are already protected from logging.
The B.C. Green Party issued a statement in response, saying that the protection of only 54 trees was "inadequate given the ongoing, unsustainable logging of old-growth across the province."
“This announcement is distracting from the government's ongoing failure to protect old-growth ecosystems in B.C.,” said Cowichan Valley MLA Sonia Furstenau.
“Old-growth is not a renewable resource and there’s not much of it left. Instead of logging until the last ancient trees have been killed - a process that would exacerbate job losses - we should proactively support forestry communities as they transition into sustainable, second-growth logging."
She said the number of trees the province says its protecting has been inflated and adding 54 more trees won't be enough to keep old-growth forests intact.
Last month, old-growth logging opponents staged protests across the province.
Groups including the Sierra Club argued that the forests were in need of science-based protection, similar to how B.C. moved to protect 85 per cent of the Great Bear Rainforest in 2016.