Three years after the B.C. government promised to reform forest stewardship, provincial old-growth updates remain incomplete, delayed and superficial.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 4, 2023
VANCOUVER/UNCEDED xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (MUSQUEAM), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (SQUAMISH) AND səlilwətaɬ (TSLEIL-WAUTUTH) TERRITORIES – A Sierra Club BC review of provincial logging data shows that the total area of old growth cut in 2021 was about 19 percent higher than what was reported by the province. This means annual old-growth logging increased in 2021 instead of falling to “record lows” as stated by the B.C. government. The annual total reviewed by Sierra Club BC shows 45,700 hectares of old-growth forests were cut in 2021, which is equivalent to a loss of 175 soccer fields per day. Annual data for 2022 has still not been shared by the province.
“Three years ago, the B.C. government promised to work with First Nations to shift the paradigm in forest stewardship, including providing the public with timely and objective information about forest conditions and trends. Three years later, people in B.C. are still left without basic facts, like the annual destruction of irreplaceable old-growth forests,” said Jens Wieting, Sierra Club BC’s Senior Forest and Climate Campaigner.
This finding is especially concerning because the B.C. government stated in its November 2022 media release that old-growth logging had “declined to record lows.” To support this, the province compared the old-growth logging total of 2021 to 2015, instead of the previous year. A closer look at the limited provincial data shared at the time showed a relatively stable old-growth logging rate during the period 2019 to 2021, averaging 150 soccer fields per day. However, based on Sierra Club BC’s review of more recent data, the total area of old growth logged went up in 2021 when compared to 2020, instead of being reduced.
“The inconvenient truth is that industry has taken too much of the forest, without regard for the ecological and economic consequences. We need to change course quickly to safeguard what is left and restore what has been damaged. Unfortunately, our review shows that instead of protecting and bringing back forests, B.C. continues to allow irresponsible logging and leaves us in the dark about how much is being lost,” said Shelley Luce, Sierra Club BC’s Director of Campaigns.
One of the data sources available to compile the annual old-growth logging total is the RESULTS database (specifically Openings and Reserves databases). A major challenge using this source is that areas logged in one year may not show up in the database until one or two years later. Sierra Club BC’s recent review showed a higher total logged than the province reported when using updated data.
“The incomplete, delayed and superficial provincial data about old-growth trends shows that B.C. is nowhere close to fulfilling one of the conditional recommendations of the Old Growth Strategic Review, much more detailed and timely information about the state of the forest. This is necessary to assess progress and was supposed to be implemented during the first year of the three-year framework,” added Wieting.
One example is the fate of the most endangered old-growth forests. In 2021, the B.C. government shared mapping identifying 2.6 million hectares of old-growth forests considered most at-risk that had been recommended for logging deferrals. More than half of these areas, however, remain open to logging. Detailed public updates on new deferrals, permanent protection, areas logged or at risk of logging are particularly important for all categories of at-risk forests. And regional information is necessary to inform land use planning and new Forest Landscape Plans.
Other jurisdictions have no trouble offering timely updates on forest trends. In early July the government of Brazil reported a 34 percent drop in deforestation for the period January to June 2023 within days.
Jens Wieting, Senior Forest and Climate Campaigner, Sierra Club BC,
Featured photo by Mya Van Woudenberg.