BC confirms logging deferrals are in place for 1.7M hectares of old-growth
April 4, 2022 By Maria Church
Logging deferrals are now in place in B.C. covering nearly 1.7 million hectares of old-growth forest, 1.05 million of which is considered most at-risk, the province said Friday.
The B.C. government shared an update April 1 on its efforts to engage with First Nations rights and titleholders on deferring harvest in their respective territories while new old-growth management approaches are developed. The province announced last November its intention to defer logging in 2.6 million hectares of old-growth following the recommendations of the Old Growth Strategic Review (OGSR).
According to the province, 188 out of the 204 B.C. First Nations have responded, 75 of which have agreed to some degree of harvest deferral. Seven First Nations oppose any deferrals and more than 60 have requested more time.
“Our government’s new vision for forestry is one where we better care for our most ancient and rarest forests, First Nations are full partners in forest management, and communities and workers benefit from secure, innovative jobs for generations to come,” B.C. Forests Minister Katrine Conroy said in the update.
More than 80 per cent of the “priority at-risk old-growth” identified by the OGSR is already off limits to logging because it is already protected, covered by deferrals or uneconomic to harvest, the government said.
The province’s new Old Growth Strategy for B.C. is expected to be completed in 2023.
The government has set aside $185 million over three years for “co-ordinated and comprehensive supports for forestry workers, industry, communities and First Nations” affected by old-growth logging restrictions, including funding for short-term jobs for contractors and their workers, rural economic diversification and infrastructure projects, bridging to retirement for older workers, education and skills training, and on-the-ground economic development and community support services.
A forestry worker supports and community resiliency council will be created from industry, labour, Indigenous and municipal leaders, to guide program development and implementation, the province said.
Garry Merkel, mentor for OGSR implementation, said in the government statement that the deferrals process took longer than predicted.
“This is not surprising, given that this is the first time we have ever done anything at this scale, and we are all at different stages of readiness to engage in or lead this type of process, as well as the complications created by COVID-19 and the natural disasters we’ve faced over the past couple years,” Merkel said.
“Despite these challenges, we are shifting our paradigms (ways of thinking), achieving real results and creating new ways of working together. We will learn from this first step to help inform our ongoing work on the remaining OGSR recommendations and achieve our common goal of improved land stewardship in British Columbia,” he said.
B.C. has around 11.1 million hectares of old-growth covering 12 per cent of the province and 20 per cent of the forested land base. One-third of that old-growth is protected. According to the province, old-growth harvesting in unprotected areas has decreased by 40 per cent over the past five years. In 2020, 33,262 hectares or 0.3 per cent of old-growth was logged.
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