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B.C. government deferral on harvest of old-growth includes stands throughout Shuswap

Local advocate for protecting old-growth receives announcement with cautious optimism
Red dots on this map show prioritized “big-treed old growth” identified by the B.C. government as part of its priority deferral area. Purple dots are “ancient forest” and blue dots are “remnant old ecosystems.” (BC government image)

Stands of old-growth trees in the Shuswap are included in the B.C. government’s proposed harvest deferral area announced by the B.C. government.

On Tuesday, Nov. 2, the province announced it would defer logging in up to 2.6 million hectares of forest identified as rare, ancient or sustaining big trees – an area that represents about half of the identified old-growth forest in B.C. that is not yet protected.

Representatives of B.C.’s forestry industry suggested the deferrals would result in the closure of up to 20 sawmills in the province, as well as two pulp mills and an undetermined number of value-added manufacturing facilities.

“This represents approximately 18,000 good, family-supporting jobs lost, along with over $400 million in lost revenues to government each year – revenues that help pay for health care, education and other services British Columbians count on,” said Council of Forest Industries President Susan Yurkovich.

Jim Cooperman, a Shuswap environmentalist and advocate for the protection of old-growth forests, also wasn’t elated by the announcement, though he was hopeful.

“After two decades of disappointment with forestry policies that have allowed the industry to run the agenda and that resulted in the loss of likely many thousands of hectares of more precious, ecological rich, ancient forests, I am now cautiously optimistic about yesterday’s old-growth protection plan announced by the B.C. government,” said Cooperman.

A Nov. 2 media release from the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development explained the logging deferrals are a temporary measure to prevent “irreversible biodiversity loss while First Nations, the province and other partners develop a new approach to sustainable forest management that prioritizes ecosystem health and community prosperity…”

To support the process, the government has ceased advertising and selling BC Timber Sales in the affected areas. According to the release, details around the identified old-growth and at-risk forest stands have been shared with First Nations right and title holders so they can advise how to proceed on the deferral areas in their respective territories. The province has requested that First Nations indicate within 30 days if they support the deferrals. When the deferral period ends, the B.C. government says the newly identified at-risk forests will either be added to the 3.5 million hectares of old-growth forest already off limits to harvesting, or be included within new forest management plans.

Read more: Column: Old-growth forests threatened, locally and provincially

Read more: B.C. forestry policy and practices challenged at Shuswap rally

Cooperman is hopeful local First Nations will support the deferrals to set aside what appears to be many hundreds of hectares of old-growth forest in the Shuswap.

“The key areas that need protection will be those that are adjacent to existing protected old-growth areas, parks and riparian areas,” said Cooperman. “Also, those old-growth stands that help add connective corridors for wildlife are also important to protect. Even the isolated islands of old growth offer some ecological value by providing refuge habitat for species that depend on it.”

Another consideration, said Cooperman, is the role that intact forests have in mitigating climate change.

“Forests are important carbon sinks, and already B.C.’s forests are emitting far more carbon than they are sequestering, due to clearcutting, fires, pests and diseases,” he said. “If Canada and the province are really going to seriously commit to their global objectives, they must drastically reduce logging and plant many more trees.”

Regarding the loss of forestry jobs, the province said it would be looking to provide necessary supports to help forestry workers, communities and First Nations to offset job and economic impacts that may follow new harvest restrictions.

The province’s Old Growth Strategic Review determined that of 56.2 million hectares of forest in B.C., 11.1 million is old growth.

With files from Tom Fletcher, Black Press Media.
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Lachlan Labere

About the Author: Lachlan Labere

Editor, Salmon Arm Observer
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