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Industry in uproar over BC’s deferral of old-growth harvesting

November 3, 2021
By Maria Church
Photo by John Deal, Campbell River, B.C.

British Columbia’s forest sector is voicing major concerns with the province’s recently announced intention to defer harvest of 2.6 million hectares of old-growth forests.

The B.C. government announced yesterday it plans to move forward with logging deferrals as a temporary measure to “prevent irreversible biodiversity loss” while developing a new forest management approach.

“Following the recommendations of the Old Growth Strategic Review, we are taking steps to fundamentally transform the way we manage our old-growth forests, lands and resources,” Premier John Horgan said in a news release.

According to the province, forest stand details were shared with First Nations rights and title holders. They have been given 30 days to respond with support, requests for further engagement, or preference to discuss via existing treaties. The government has earmarked $12.69 million over three years to support the process.


Meanwhile, BC Timber Sales have immediately ceased in the affected areas.

According to government news release, newly identified at-risk forests will either be added to B.C.’s 3.5 million hectares of old-growth forests already off-limits to harvesting, or included within new forest management plans.

The BC Council of Forest Industries (COFI) has called the move devastating for people, families, and communities across the province.

COFI president and CEO Susan Yurkovich said in a news release they estimate the deferrals will lead to 14 to 20 B.C. sawmill closures, along with the closure of two pulp mills and many value-added manufacturing facilities.

“It’s particularly troubling that these deferrals come on the heels of a pandemic that has challenged us all and where the forest industry has been a bright light,” Yurkovich said. “We kept people working safely and continued to deliver more than $4 billion in revenues to government over the last year which has helped put our province in a financial position better than most. Now the key industry that has and can continue to contribute to our resilience is being devastated.”

A COFI-commissioned study recently determined productive old-growth in B.C. is 30 per cent, not three per cent, as claimed by the province’s 2020 old growth report.

The Truck Loggers Association is echoing COFI’s concerns and, in a news release, decried the government’s lack of consultation with industry stakeholders.

“For months, the Truck Loggers Association and many others who represent the forestry sector have requested to meet with government and have recommended we work towards having a collaborative discussion with all stakeholders to find a solution that works for everyone … This announcement sends a clear message that the forest industry does not have a voice, we have not been heard, and our input is not important.”

The Business Council of British Columbia (BCBC) has also taken issue with the old-growth deferrals, calling the announcement deeply concerning for the future health of the B.C. economy.

“The process undertaken by government on this file also adds significant uncertainty and further erodes investor confidence in a province with complex, costly and time-consuming permitting processes,” BCBC warns.

BC First Nations Forestry Council (BCFNFC) was among the first to voice alarm over the government’s claim to have consulted with First Nations over the deferrals. In a news release, BCFNFC stated that, for many Nations, a government email sent recently was the first they had heard or seen of the deferrals.

“The honour of the Crown cannot be met through fundamentally flawed consultation,” Chief Bill Williams, president of the BC First Nations Forestry Council, said in their news release.

“This is not just about protecting old-growth; this is a land use planning decision that will impact the ability of Nations to make decisions about the use of forest lands and resources in their territories for decades,” Matt Wealick, Indigenous registered professional forester, said in the release.

The BCFNFC is calling for the province to work with them to develop a transparent process to, “meaningfully engage with Nations on the modernization of forest policy in B.C., including the principles around the identification of old-growth deferral areas.”

Some of B.C.’s major forestry producers are also piping up.

While Western Forest Products is looking for clarification on the province’s proposed deferral measures to understand the impact it will have on their operations, Canfor president and CEO Don Kayne is warning the measures will further erode the Canadian forest industry’s global competitiveness.

Teal-Jones Group is voicing concern over the potential disruption to thousands of peoples’ livelihoods, based on decisions made “with little or no consultation with the industry, First Nations, unions, and forestry communities.”

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3 Comments » for Industry in uproar over BC’s deferral of old-growth harvesting
  1. richard annett says:

    Personally, and i am speaking as someone who is a part of a biomass heating company, I think it is a good thing. The old growth cutting was bringing the industry into disrepute with the public and the government they elect. It was also giving the police a bad name too. They have enough crap to deal with, without having to deal with this also.
    Has the industry not been cutting wood down for centuries to have established a crop rotation? Is BCs interior beetle killed wood stock not enough to harvest? Is that not a fire hazard that needs to be dealt with ASAP?
    Lets see the whole picture of forest resources in BC and not solely focus on whats left of of old growth. Does the doubling of the no-go areas represent a big dent in the overall forestry scene? if the resources is 57 million ha, then the additional 2.6m is taking about 4.5% off the table. Is that such a big deal? Yes it will upset those set up to harvest old growth. That is unfortunate, but you cannot have been in the industry for the last ten years without realising this issue was going to kick up a stink at some stage. It has, now. Isnt it time to move on?

  2. John Chittick says:

    Around 20% of ecologically functional old growth is already protected by parks and reserves and areas netted out of the timber harvesting land base due to environmental and operational imperatives. The 2.6 million hectares represents close to 10% of the provincial timber harvesting land base which will have significant socio-economic impacts to people, communities and the province. If BC were not handicapped with Crown tenure this moratorium would represent a market-based value of 6 to 8 billion dollars if put on the market (privatized). The US funded greens that paid the protesters have likely spent less than one tenth of one percent of that to get their way with the urban white-collar owned and operated NDP. What is truly amazing is that anyone in any resource job in BC would support such a regime.

  3. It is sickening to see what is happening to our forests. They have been mismanaged for years and because of that even, the newly planted ones burn to the ground.
    We have written an article which is a call to action to protect the last remaining old-growth. Check it out if you like;

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