FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 26, 2023
B.C. Conservation financing mechanism is a ray of hope for lasting old growth protection.
Sierra Club BC welcomes today’s announcement of a historic conservation financing mechanism consisting of a $150 million investment from B.C. matched by a BC Parks Foundation commitment to raise $150 million, for a total of $300 million in financing.
The funding is the biggest step yet towards meeting the provincial goal to protect 30 percent of lands with high conservation values in B.C. by 2030, in particular at-risk old-growth forests. Applied effectively, it will support the implementation of B.C.’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act. It could also fund the establishment of Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas (IPCAs), other protected area designations, and the development of new, sustainable businesses to support healthy communities and intact forests.
“This is the beginning of a huge shift toward conserving our most endangered forests and reaching the goal of protecting 30 percent of land in B.C. by 2030. Seven years from now, people in B.C. could be looking back and celebrating this crucial milestone towards conservation, a stable climate and reconciliation,” said Shelley Luce, Sierra Club BC’s Director of Campaigns. “With this announcement, Premier Eby’s leadership is enabling greater investments in conserving forests and creating new economic activities to replace the industrial clear-cut logging that has decimated our forests.”
The new funding, combined with the expected Biodiversity and Ecosystem Health framework, a Nature Agreement with the federal government and First Nations organizations, and an updated action plan for implementation of the Old-Growth Strategic Review (OGSR) advances the B.C. government’s promise to accelerate action for old growth protection.
“We are optimistic that today’s announcement of $300 million in funding will be a major turning point in the efforts to safeguard the web of life we depend on. Halting the biodiversity and climate crises is a titanic challenge, but there are few places on the planet that could contribute more to solving these crises than this province,” said Jens Wieting, Sierra Club BC’s Senior Forest and Climate Campaigner.
The creation of the conservation mechanism follows years of relentless activism and calls for action on old growth, especially for conservation financing, from countless groups and individuals across B.C. Polling commissioned by Sierra Club BC in 2021 showed 85 percent of people in the province support old growth protection.
“We are hopeful that all involved in this new chapter will seek to ensure the most effective use of the new funding by prioritizing protection of the most endangered ecosystems and species at-risk habitat, and establishing IPCAs that result in permanent protection from industrial threats,” added Wieting.
The new conservation financing mechanism is similar to the approach developed as part of the 2006 Great Bear Rainforest Agreements. That $120 million dollar fund was tied to the creation of more than 100 new protected areas totaling about 1.7 million hectares that included representation of the full range of ecosystems in this region, like low elevation old-growth rainforest. The mechanism also resulted in a new protected area designation called conservancy, which was co-developed with First Nations.
Meeting the 30 x 30 goal will require doubling the total area in protected areas in B.C. that meet international standards (defined by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature). In recent years the total area in protected areas that meet these standards stood at 15.5 percent.
The data and mapping developed by the Technical Advisory Panel (TAP) and endorsed by the B.C. government in 2021 show that old-growth forests cover 11.1 million hectares (less than 20 percent of B.C.’s total forest area). According to the TAP data, about two-thirds of the remaining old-growth (7.6 million hectares) have been identified as at-risk old-growth forests. Of those 7.6 million hectares, two-thirds (5 million hectares) are unprotected. And of those unprotected at-risk stands, a little more than half (2.6 million hectares) is recommended for deferrals. Currently, less than half of these most at risk old-growth forests have been deferred from logging.
Shelley Luce, Campaigns Director, Sierra Club BC
Jens Wieting, Senior Forest and Climate Campaigner/Science Advisor, Sierra Club BC
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