VICTORIA -- A new report commissioned by the Sierra Club of BC says that the industrial logging of forests has a significant impact on the frequency and severity of climate risks for communities in British Columbia.

The independent report titled “Intact Forests, Safe Communities” was written by Dr. Peter Wood from the University of Toronto. It highlights the relationship between forest management and climate-related disasters like floods, droughts and forest fires. It calls on governments to reform current logging practices to help prevent further climate-related catastrophes.

“There is overwhelming evidence that intact forests are crucial in protecting communities from floods, fire and landslides,” said Sierra Club of BC senior forest and climate campaigner Jens Wieting. “The B.C. government has done some work to understand the coming climate impacts, but they have not taken a closer look at the relationship between logging and these climate impacts.”

Wieting says it is absolutely critical to include logging practices as part of the climate preparedness strategy for B.C. He says protecting the province’s old-growth forests and restoring degraded areas where clear-cut logging has occurred will help to move B.C. towards more sustainable forest practices.

The report also emphasizes the need for the province to include Indigenous decision-makers while incorporating Indigenous cultural values, perspectives and knowledge in forest management to mitigate risks associated with climate change.

“We know that these forests remained intact for thousands of years with Indigenous cultures without disrupting the ecosystem,” said Wieting. “We have more evidence of Indigenous burning practices so it is a real opportunity to bring those practices back to protect forests.”

Wieting says the combined climate and ecological crisis in B.C. requires a paradigm shift to keep more trees standing in order to limit the future effects of climate change.

“Coastal rainforest ecosystems are a dramatic example because they have not seen fires for hundreds of years,” said Wieting. “It is a new experience that we now have dangerous fires in the region so by protecting the remaining old-growth forest we can reduce the risk of (forest) fire on Vancouver Island.”

Wieting says the best way to mitigate the effects of climate change in B.C. is to allow young forests more time to grow older, adopt selective logging practices and end clear-cut logging. He says reforming currently logging practices and incorporating Indigenous cultural forestry practices will go a long way to address the climate crisis.

“We need government leadership from the highest level making this a priority with clear timelines,” said Wieting. “We really need the interim protection for at-risk forests now, otherwise there will be not much left to have a discussion about with indigenous governments.”

According to Wieting, the actions we take today by reforming current logging practices will determine the safety of B.C. communities in the coming years and decades.

“This is an important task to pursue today to reduce the risk for tomorrow,” said Wieting. “Many of the risks outlined in B.C.’s provincial risk assessment have catastrophic potential by 2050 and we can only reduce the level of risk by acting today.”

The full “Intact Forests, Safe Communities” report is available here.