Political failures force citizens to put themselves in danger
By Eddie Petryshen
British Columbia bills itself as a “supernatural British Columbia” and yet we are one of the last jurisdictions in the world to still harvest irreplaceable old growth forests on public lands.
The fight for BC’s forests is often presented as a battle between resource workers and environmentalists. Meanwhile, the political failures and corporate agendas responsible for the current state of British Columbia’s forests rarely make headlines.
British Columbia’s biodiversity strategy relies almost exclusively on old growth forests. Biodiversity is quite simply the collection of living things that make this province so special. Old growth forests are one of the only things we manage provincially for biodiversity. Simply put, if we fail old-growth forests on a provincial scale, we are probably failing frogs, caribou, bull trout, salmon, and all the essential living things we collectively call “biodiversity.” .
In the 1990s, British Columbia embarked on land use planning through the Commission on Resources and Environment (CORE). These locally led land use tables provided a blueprint and a benchmark for how regions would manage natural resources, including old growth forests, in the future. The resulting Kootenay Boundary and Revelstoke land use plan (s) produced old growth targets that were subsequently reduced significantly with one stroke of the pen. This is often referred to as “withdrawal”.
In these two areas, the objectives of retaining old-growth forests have been reduced by two-thirds in areas with low biodiversity (45% of the landscape). For example, if the original old growth conservation objective for logging companies was to conserve 12% of the old growth cedar and lowland hemlock forests in an area, after the implementation of the drawdown, the legal objective would become 4 percent. With just one change, logging companies only had to preserve one-third of the original target in almost half of the landscape in the Kootenay-Boundary and Revelstoke region. This drawdown has resulted in the sacrifice of some of the most important lowland old growth forests.
In 2011, the Revelstoke area requirements for old wood were once again weakened. The changes allowed licensees to place old growth management areas outside of the timber harvesting land base and released previously protected or restricted old growth forest for logging. In total, the amendment made 7,049 hectares, or more than 8,000 football fields, of previously protected or restricted old and mature forest value available for potential exploitation (Forest Practices Board 2013).
In 2018, the West Kootenay Eco-Company filed a formal complaint with the province that the old growth forests in the Kootenay Lake and Arrow wood supply areas were not being effectively protected in the forest management areas. old, and that the province did not meet the already weakened legal standards. the growth targets set out in the Kootenay and Boundary Higher Level Plan Order.
The province performed a formal analysis and found that licensees were in deficit for old growth forests in 47 areas of the Arrow and Kootenay Lake timber supply and likely did not meet legal requirements for old growth forests. set out in land use plans.
They also found that only 17 and 18% of forests in old-growth management areas (OGMAs) are actually made up of old-growth forest. The vast majority of the forests in the nature reserves of these two timber supply zones (TSA) are made up of young, middle and mature forests. This equates to a massive 76,000 ha of old growth forest loss in OGMA in Arrow’s ASD and nearly 36,000 ha in Kootenay Lake ASD (MacKillop 2018).
Old growth management areas are meant to conserve old growth forests, but OGMA’s current management in these two areas points to political failures significant enough to drive a logging truck.
We will soon know what the provincially appointed Old Growth Technical Review Committee will recommend to stop the bleeding caused by decades of harvesting irreplaceable old growth forests. Industry lobby groups are already trying to dismiss the findings of the Ancient Plants Technical Review Committee and delay action further.
As citizens continue to put their bodies at risk during roadblocks around the province to protect forests, rubber will hit the road with another round of growth postponements expected in early fall. Will “supernatural British Columbia” continue to be known as one of the last jurisdictions in the world to still harvest irreplaceable old growth forests?
– Eddie Petryshen is a conservation specialist with Wildsight, 250-427-9885, [email protected]