B.C. strikes independent panel on old growth

Independent panel to provide guidance on managing old growth forests

The B.C. government defines old growth forests as areas containing trees that are at least 250 years old. | Wilderness Committee

The B.C. government has announced a new independent Old Growth Technical Advisory Panel to help it address concerns about logging what remains of B.C.’s ancient trees.

Whether that actually stops some of the anti-logging protests that have been taking place on Vancouver Island remains to be seen. Despite the B.C. government announcing a two-year moratorium in two areas of concern on Vancouver Island – the Walbran and Fairy Creek – logging protests have continued. Well over 200 people have been arrested to date for breaching an injunction against blockades of logging roads.

It appears part of the panel’s job will be to help determine what exactly constitutes old growth eco-systems.

"We are committed to a science-based approach to old growth management, and our work with the advisory panel will help us break down barriers between the different interpretations of data that are out there," said Katrine Conroy, minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development.

The announcement was met with some approval by environmental groups.

“We applaud the appointment of independent scientists to guide the implementation of the provincial old growth report that outlined the need for a paradigm shift in forestry and the immediate protection of at-risk old growth,” Eddie Petryshen, conservation specialist with Wildsight said in a press release.

While the Sierra Club said the panel  “could be a turning point,” it said immediate deferrals are needed on all logging in old growth stands in B.C.

“This advisory panel combined with leadership from the B.C. government will allow the province to implement a precautionary approach,” said Jens Wieting, forest and climate campaigner for the the BC chapter of the Sierra Club said.

“This requires deferring logging in all at-risk forests in the short-term to buy time to work with Indigenous decision makers on long-term designations that respect Indigenous rights and title.”

Resource Works warns that halting all logging in areas with old growth forests would result in the shuttering of sawmills and more job losses in the forest sector.

“A ban on harvesting of B.C. coastal old growth would result in the immediate closure of at least four sawmills, one pulp mill and the entire shake and shingle industry,” Resource Works says in a recently published citizen’s guide to old growth.

In a recent report on forestry in B.C., Resource Works said there are 13.2 million hectares of old-growth forests in B.C., of which 4.4 million hectares (33%) are in formal protected areas.

The Fairy Creek watershed on Vancouver Island – which been the target of much of the anti-logging protests that have resulted in numerous arrests -- is largely protected, the report notes.

"The fact is, forest management in BC is not in crisis; far from it. Rather, there is a 'crisis' of misinformation,” the Forestry in BC report says.

Last year, the B.C. government released its Old Growth Strategic Review. To date, there have been deferrals on harvesting in 11 areas, including the two most recent moratoriums in the Walbran and Fairy Creek watersheds.

One of the panel's duties, according to its terms of reference, is to provide maps, analysis, and detailed status of old growth ecosystems in B.C.