Scientists urge British Columbia government to implement panel recommendations using new data and maps to maintain options in old growth forests
UNCEDED SINIXT, KTUNAXA, SYILX and WITSUWIT'EN TERRITORIES (NELSON, BC and SMITHERS, BC), May 19, 2021 /CNW/ - The 2020 Old Growth Strategic Review (OGSR) identified the need for immediate logging deferrals of the highest value, most at risk old forest in the British Columbia. Temporary logging deferrals maintain options during ongoing land-use planning discussions with First Nations and allow time for the recommended paradigm shift in forest management that prioritizes Indigenous rights and interests, ecological integrity and long-term community stability over timber volume.
Our research previously informed the OGSR, and highlighted the high ecological risk in particular types of old growth forests. The OGSR Recommendation 6 says: Until a new strategy is implemented, defer development in old forest where ecosystems are at very high and near-term risk of irreversible loss. The OGSR lists a series of criteria to be used to identify appropriate forest for deferral from harvest in the short-term.
In the year since the OSGR report was submitted to the provincial government, these criteria have not been mapped by government as recommended by the panel. Deferrals announced in September 2020 failed to meet the panel's recommendations and instead left the most rare, at-risk forests open to logging.
In continuation of our work on this issue and to address this gap, we have created an approach for identifying areas of the province that best meet the criteria for immediate deferral as outlined in the OGSR report.
"We are pleased to present this detailed analysis to First Nations and the province, in order to support the process of identifying forests where immediate logging deferrals are needed to fulfill the urgent recommendation from the province's expert panel," said Dr. Rachel Holt, forest ecologist and report co-author. "This government has a history of starting out to do the right thing, but then getting cold feet and looking only through a timber supply lens when they make decisions. This pattern goes back to the Biodiversity Guidebook of the 1990s, which has never been fully implemented. Effective deferrals are an essential tool to prevent irreversible biodiversity loss. In the last year, old growth forests that should have been protected have been logged due to a lack of clarity on the data and maps. The analysis and maps we have released today resolve these issues and give the province the ability to move quickly to ensure all options are maintained."
Our new analysis and map identifies an area amounting to about 1.3 million hectares distributed evenly across forests of British Columbia. The actual area of overlap with cutting permits will be much smaller — and the province has existing tools to immediately defer any existing or planned cutblocks and road building in those areas, including through various sections of the Forest Act, and by offering new instructions to its Statutory Decision Makers, and its forestry arm, BC Timber Sales.
"Our map represents the key criteria that the old growth panel outlined for immediate logging deferrals, including the tallest, largest forests, plus rare and ancient forest," said Dave Daust, forester, modeler and project lead. "With this blueprint, the province can act immediately to ensure any existing or planned logging in these areas is put on hold while it pursues a Government-to-Government approach for forest management that puts Indigenous rights and interests, ecological values, and community resilience ahead of timber volume."
We have identified a total area of about 2.6% percent of the forested land-base in BC. A small portion of that will overlap with existing and upcoming permits and that area should be deferred from logging based on the provincial commitment to the Old Growth Strategic Review and the intent to prevent irreversible biodiversity loss. Our accompanying map and briefing are intended as a resource for First Nations, the provincial government, communities and anyone to use in order to support immediate deferrals, as well as long-term land use visions, stewardship initiatives and management plans.
"This first move is key: will provincial deferrals prioritise cultural and ecological values or will they follow the historic trend of prioritising timber supply?" said Holt, "We have a last chance to rise to the challenge offered by the Old Growth Strategic Review Panel to undertake a paradigm shift of priorities in BC forest management. We expect to see leadership from this provincial government, and hope our work can support a long-term and bold vision for the future."
Full report and map available at Veridian Ecological Consulting website: https://veridianecological.ca/old-growth-resilience/
SOURCE Old Growth Scientists Group