Vancouver Island old-growth under attack

How does BC’s government justify 1,300 hectares of new old growth cut-blocks in 2019?

Originally published in Cowichan Valley Voice

BC Greens know British Columbians value the beauty of their forests and the economic promise its renewable resources have brought to our thriving province. That is why we called for a moratorium on old growth logging during our 2017 campaign: because we know there is a better, more sustainable, more efficient way to harvest this resource while also protecting critical ecosystems that are simply worth more in the ground than on the chopping block.

An old growth moratorium would have given the new government time to form a strategy grounded in solid evidence and inspired by current models such as those explored by the Ecoforestry Institute Society right here in British Columbia.

Indeed, BC NDP’s 2017 election platform also included a commitment to protect old-growth. But instead of a clear, comprehensive strategy, they continued the BC Liberal’s old growth clear cutting legacy.

Earlier this month, in a review of BC Timber Sales’ sales schedule, environmental organizations Elphinstone Logging Focus and Sierra Club BC revealed the BC government plans to auction more than 1,300 hectares of cutblocks in old-growth forests across Vancouver Island in 2019. More than 100 hectares of this old-growth forest scheduled to be clearcut is adjacent to Juan de Fuca Provincial Park located northeast of Botanical Beach and south of Port Renfrew.

Let’s put this into perspective. At present, 79% of the original productive old-growth forests on BC’s southern coast have been logged, including 90% of the valley bottoms where the largest trees grow. Only 8% of Vancouver Island’s original productive old growth forests are protected in parks and Old Growth Management Areas.

How does the BC government justify its decisions to log our intact old growth forests?

One trick government uses is to re-define “old growth” – to treat a sub-alpine ancient forest, where the trees may never grow more than a few dozen feet high, the same as a valley bottom in a coastal rainforest, where the centuries-old giants ascend into the heavens. This inflates “old growth” estimates.

Another manipulation is to measure old growth not by whether the forest has been standing for hundreds of years, but by the percentage of trees in that forest that are less than 75 years old. Using that logic, any forest that has the capacity for natural regeneration will be considered second growth before long; new trees will simply out number the old.

Or they argue these trees have no real “value” other than their timber – and that the people just don’t understand the “science” or economics. What becomes clear is that the only real goal is to replace old growth forests with “productive” second-growth tree farms with little long-term strategy.

This is the same logic that guided the mismanagement that led to the current salmon crisis and subsequent fisheries closures this summer, which will devastate many local coastal communities. This is the result of a short-sighted vision for BC's economic future. And we are repeating these same mistakes with old-growth.

We need to change how land use decisions are made in this province, to create healthy, sustainable, resilient communities as the impacts of climate change increase and intensify.

We need to ensure that the people who live on the land, who depend on the water and soil, are participating in decisions about that land. First Nations, local community representatives, and local governments need to be at the table. Port Renfrew has re-defined itself as the “Tall Tree Capital of Canada,” generating a sustainable ecotourism-based economy. Remove the tall trees and this burgeoning economy, along with its ecosystem, falters.

We must protect the last of the old growth on Vancouver Island for future generations, because we recognize that ultimately it belongs to them, not us. We need to start making decisions that our grandchildren won’t have to forgive us for.

For more information on how the BC Green caucus is fighting to save old growth and pursue a vision for a more sustainable economy for British Columbians, visit bcgreen.ca and follow us on twitter @BCGreens.

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