Intact forests are our biggest allies against worsening wildfires, but we are logging them to the brink.
Forest conservation, forestry reforms, and Indigenous expertise and knowledge are urgently needed to mitigate climate disaster risks
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 1, 2021
Unceded Coast Salish Territories (VANCOUVER, BC) — A new independent report commissioned by Sierra Club BC looks at the relationship between forest management and severe climate impacts expected across B.C. It shows that governments can mitigate climate related disasters like flooding, droughts, fires and heatwaves by swiftly reforming B.C.’s forestry practices, applying Indigenous knowledge to forest-related decisions, and protecting and restoring intact forests, before the climate crisis worsens.
Written by Dr. Peter Wood, the ‘Intact forests, safe communities’ report found that industrial logging has a significant impact on the severity and frequency of climate risks for B.C. communities. Of the 15 climate risks identified in B.C.’s 2019 Strategic Climate Risk Assessment, the majority are influenced by logging. The BC Climate Risk Assessment outlined how several of these risks have the potential to create catastrophic impacts.
B.C.’s assessment did not consider the ways that logging worsens climate risks, presenting a major blind spot that could undermine the effectiveness of the Province’s response to global heating. In order to support the health and safety of B.C. communities, it is critical that the BC Climate Preparedness and Adaptation Strategy, now under development, include measures to protect intact forests and reform forestry practices. The best way to accomplish this is by implementing all of the recommendations from the 2020 Old Growth Strategic Review.
“The science is clear that clearcutting increases the frequency and intensity of forest fires. We also know it increases both the risk of flooding and periods of drought, as well as erosion and slope instability, which increase the likelihood of landslides,” explained Dr. Peter Wood, the author of the report. “In contrast, old intact forests act as a moderating influence on the landscape, supporting ecosystem function and resilience, and lowering risk to surrounding communities.”
“The climate crisis impacts us all, but it particularly has devastating repercussions for vulnerable and marginalized people, including First Nations across the province, many who have limited capacity and resources to respond to climate disasters and whose territories are high-risk areas that corporations and governments seek to develop,” stated Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs.
“UBCIC endorsed Resolution 2020-23 to call on the government to involve Indigenous people in decisions related to forestry management, including the protection of old-growth forests, as they not only have a vested interest in protecting and stewarding the land that they have maintained spiritual and cultural ties to since time immemorial, but many Nations depend on forestry for their livelihoods and must be able to help guide BC’s transition to more sustainable and conservation-based practices,” added Phillip.
“The climate crisis puts the health and safety of communities in danger, and clearcut logging is making things worse,” said Sierra Club BC’s Senior Forest and Climate Campaigner Jens Wieting.
“It doesn’t need to be this way. Immediately deferring logging in at-risk old-growth forests and implementing the promised paradigm shift to forest management can reduce climate risks, if we move quickly. Remaining old-growth must be protected, and forest that has already been degraded by logging can be restored to increase resiliency,” added Wieting.
Premier John Horgan has committed to implementing all of the recommendations of the Old Growth Strategic Review; however, the B.C. government has yet to implement interim protection for all at-risk forests, provide the necessary funding, and disclose a timetable for how they will live up to this commitment.
The ‘Intact forests, safe communities’ report emphasized that the provincial government must work with Indigenous decision-makers to incorporate Indigenous perspectives, cultural values, and knowledge into forest management decisions to mitigate risks.
“First Nations have long been lobbying the B.C. government to recognize their right to manage the forest in their territories and to protect their sacred sites, old-growth ecosystems that support medicinal plants, and habitat for wildlife and birds. Through management of their forests, they would keep healthy forests with high environmental standards. This report reflects what First Nations have always known, that the provincial governments must change the way they manage forests immediately,” stated Kekinusuqs, Dr. Judith Sayers, President of the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council.
“We are entering a new era of climate emergency and forest management must be adapted to mitigate many of the risks,” said Wieting.
“This is an opportunity to transition to a more sustainable model of forestry that is jointly designed with First Nations and build more resilient communities. However, time is running out, as these threats will only increase in magnitude with further warming and logging of intact forest.”
Peter Wood, Report Author | PhD in Forestry from the University of Toronto
firstname.lastname@example.org, (604) 761-3075
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip | President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs
Jens Wieting, Senior Forest and Climate Campaigner | Sierra Club BC
email@example.com, (604) 354-5312
Photo by U.S. Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region
Greenpeace, Sierra Club BC, Stand.earth call on governments, major logging companies to address delays in light of climate, biodiversity crises
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
February 10, 2020
TRADITIONAL COAST SALISH TERRITORIES (Vancouver, BC) — On the fourth anniversary of the landmark Great Bear Rainforest Agreements, environmental organizations are warning that the implementation of remaining key protection measures for the region’s coastal temperate old-growth rainforests are significantly delayed. Greenpeace, Sierra Club BC, and Stand.earth are calling on governments and the major logging companies to address the delays, especially in light of the climate and biodiversity crises.
See photo & video: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1PnfBPWVYWPMpFi4euEPCB05oKfZne1CP
In February 2016, First Nations and British Columbia signed the final iteration of 15 years of Great Bear Rainforest Agreements, protecting 3.1 million hectares of coastal temperate old-growth rainforests and leaving 550,000 hectares open to industrial logging, with commitments to implement stringent environmental logging standards. The Agreements were announced with the support of environmental organizations and major logging companies operating in the region.
Four years later, a number of components of the Agreements vital for the environmental health of this world-renowned rainforest are still not fully implemented.
“The world celebrated when the Great Bear Rainforest Agreements were signed in 2016,” said Tzeporah Berman, International Programs Director for Stand.earth. “But when the spotlight turned off, logging companies continued to target the biggest trees they could without the measures we agreed to.”
Despite promises, there is still no framework for both the oversight and monitoring of the impacts of industrial logging in the Great Bear Rainforest. In areas open to logging, the 2016 Agreements required planning to protect ecological and cultural values. Out of close to 200 areas, zero plans have been completed. These plans include the most endangered ecosystems (such as mature douglas fir and cedar), which were required to be completed by 2018.
“The Great Bear Rainforest and the Agreements for its protection are a global legacy for future generations, but only if they are fully implemented,” said Jens Wieting, Senior Forest and Climate Campaigner for Sierra Club BC. “Continued logging without finalized plans to protect endangered rainforests and ecosystems would create serious ecological risk. Moratoria for at-risk forests are needed immediately to prevent further ecological damage and implement the missing regulatory safeguards.”
“Important things have been achieved through these world-renowned conservation agreements, such as First Nations having increasingly greater say over their territories and the seeding of a conservation-based economy,” said Eduardo Sousa, Senior Campaigner at Greenpeace Canada. “However significant foot-dragging by the big companies is creating uncertainty for the ecological well-being of the forest.”
Greenpeace, Sierra Club BC, and Stand.earth continue to strongly support the accomplishments and vision of the award-winning Great Bear Rainforest Agreements, as well as its robust implementation, in line with Indigenous rights and knowledge.
Jens Wieting, Senior Forest and Climate Campaigner, Sierra Club BC, 604-354-5312
Eduardo Sousa, Senior Campaigner, Greenpeace Canada, 778-378-9955
Tegan Hansen, Forest Campaigner, Stand.earth, firstname.lastname@example.org, 250-354-3302
Fall 2019-January 2020
The BC government has appointed an independent panel to engage the public on the ecological, economic and cultural importance of old-growth trees and forests.
We encourage all British Columbia residents to write to the panel to express their views on old-growth forests. Their processes aren’t great, but we have to use this opportunity to press hard on the need to protect old-growth right now, not later. With old-growth forests in peril in this province, it’s important that our voices be heard, because urgent action is necessary.
This is what the panel has asked to hear from the public:
-What old-growth means to you and how you value it
-Your perspective on how old-growth is managed now
-How you think old-growth could be managed more effectively in the future
Have your say before January 31
Feedback can be sent by filling out the questionnaire or emailing written submissions and it is due by 4pm on Friday January 31. Scroll down for info resources you can use in writing your response. Responses written in your own words will be given more weight, so please write from the heart about why it’s important to you to protect old-growth.
Fill out the questionnaire: https://feedback.engage.gov.bc.ca/747451?lang=en
Please note that you are able to skip questions. There is a text box at the end of the questionnaire to share your reasoning and any additional thoughts on old-growth protection.
You can learn more about the Strategic Review process here: https://engage.gov.bc.ca/oldgrowth/
You can also join Sierra Club BC supporters in completing the survey or writing a letter at one of our letter-writing parties:
- Victoria at the Fernwood Inn (1302 Gladstone Avenue) Tuesday January 28, 5:30-7pm. RSVP on Facebook
- Richmond on January 19, 4-7pm. Email email@example.com for the address. RSVP on Facebook
Bring a laptop if you have one. If you don’t, there will be extra laptops to use.
Information on Old-Growth Forests
We have prepared a set of resources on old-growth forests in BC and encourage you to view it to help inform your viewpoint.
- Our Old-Growth Forest Fact Sheet
- Our forest webinar series (see “Old-Growth Update” for a webinar specifically about this review process)
- Sierra Club BC’s forest campaign website, with a wealth of links to resources, media releases, fact sheets and maps.
- Our old-growth media backgrounder
- Our Clearcut Carbon report and a recent report from Dr. Jim Pojar, which show the value of old-growth for storing carbon to address the climate crisis
- Latest polling data (9 in 10 British Columbians Support Protecting Old-Growth)
Legal changes are needed to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) in forestry laws in order to respect Indigenous jurisdiction and governance, support Indigenous-led conservation, and support economic alternatives for Nations that seek to protect more land. We encourage supporters to gain an understanding of UNDRIP and to learn about Indigenous law with resources from UVic’s Indigenous Law Research Unit.
The panel is made up of two people: Garry Merkel (forester and member of the Tahltan Nation in Northwestern BC) and Al Gorley (forester). They have a history of working with industry and government. They insist that they will be truly independent and will develop their recommendations without censorship from the provincial government.
Their mandate is to listen and to summarize what they hear, reporting back to the Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development (FLNRORD) in spring 2020 with “recommendations that are expected to inform a new approach to old-growth management for British Columbia.”
Call for Bold Changes to Forestry Laws Too
The BC government has also been thinking about how to improve the way forests are managed in BC. Soon, through a separate process, it’ll be revealing changes to the Forest & Range Practices Act (FRPA).
Changes to forestry laws need to include protections for old-growth. Let’s make sure this government gets the message that intact forests are important for bears and salmon, for Indigenous peoples, for storing carbon and for protecting communities in the face of climate change.
Photo: TJ Watt/Ancient Forest Alliance
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
June 18, 2019
Sierra Club BC released the following statement from Climate and Conservation Campaigner Mark Worthing in response to the federal government’s decision to approve the Trans Mountain pipeline and tankers project:
“Saying yes to the Trans Mountain pipeline and tankers project is saying yes to more record-breaking wildfire destruction, droughts, rising sea levels and acidifying oceans. We are in a climate emergency. We must act like we are. We say yes to keeping rivers wild and full of salmon for food and ecosystems. We say yes to clean water. We say yes to a truly sustainable economy.
“We say yes to honouring Indigenous governance. The federal government’s understanding of what represents genuine consultation and consent must change.
“Further legal challenges are inevitable. We will pull together to support those legal challenges as they emerge.
“The Trudeau government boxed itself into a corner when it panicked and purchased the pipeline. Taxpayers are now on the hook for $4.5 billion to buy it and an additional $7.4 billion for construction.
“It’s costing taxpayers more than $12 billion to have Alberta, Ontario, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and New Brunswick reject even modest climate action. We are not on track to meet our Paris climate targets.
“We will not stop standing up for wild salmon and clean water by opposing the Trans Mountain pipeline and tankers project. We will not stop working to avert climate breakdown and ecological collapse, and the economic collapse that will follow. We will not stop fighting for a livable future for our young people.
“Expanding fossil fuel infrastructure is a violent act towards current and future generations. It has to stop. Now.”
Climate and Conservation Campaigner
Sierra Club BC calls for immediate steps to reduce the danger of worsening droughts, floods and fire caused by forest destruction and climate breakdown
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
June 13, 2019
Sierra Club BC and forest expert Herb Hammond are calling on the B.C. government to declare a forest and climate emergency and take immediate action to protect and restore resilient forests in order to reduce the growing risk of unmanageable climate impacts for ecosystems and communities.
“We are in a climate emergency and it’s time the B.C. government acted like it. Defending our communities from floods and fires requires immediate action to reduce climate pollution and save intact forests,” said Jens Wieting, senior forest and climate campaigner with Sierra Club BC.
“Trees are essential for clean air and water, long term forestry jobs, storing carbon and protecting communities from floods and disasters,” said Wieting. “As the climate shifts into uncharted territory, only intact forests can buffer the impacts—not clearcuts, young forests and tree plantations. We need action today because in ten or twenty years we’ll need these resilient forests for survival.”
Destructive industrial logging is one of the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions in the province, causing forests to shift from carbon sinks to carbon pollution sources as global heating continues. Sierra Club BC estimates that B.C.’s uncounted forest emissions from poor forest management and climate impacts are more than three times higher than officially reported provincial emissions.
“The climate emergency means we must increase protection of resilient forests like old-growth forests and intact natural forests across the province. In some parts of the forest landscape, cautious intervention like thinning to build resiliency to the climate disruption and controlled burns will be necessary. Clearcutting is never the right answer—we have to reduce our losses, not make them worse,” said forester and ecologist Herb Hammond.
Meteorologists warned at the end of May that Western Canada should be ready for a particularly hot and dry summer, after an abnormally dry spring in many regions.
Hundreds of jurisdictions in more than a dozen countries have already declared climate emergencies. Canada—and in particular B.C.—face growing risks and have a critical responsibility to declare a forest and climate emergency. No other country has more trees per person than Canada.
In October 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) projected that without unprecedented action, by 2040 the world will heat by about 1.5 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial times. As a consequence of warming of just one degree, water vapour in the atmosphere has already increased by seven per cent and changes in the jet stream have resulted in weather patterns becoming more stationary, causing longer and more extreme flooding and droughts.
These trends will only stop once the world economy has completely decarbonized, but can be significantly slowed by protecting intact natural forests, particularly old forests, that are large enough to moderate local climates and stave off the worst impacts of the climate disruption. B.C. communities are at increasing risk of climate impacts made worse by large-scale clearcutting of intact forests and destructive practices like slash burning that add to carbon emissions, all of which are causing cumulative damages in many Indigenous territories.
Moving away from destructive practices must be part of provincial climate action to increase the amount of carbon stored in forests. This will translate into more jobs and less ecosystem damage per cubic metre of wood. Solutions like increased protection and improved forest management must fully respect the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).
Sierra Club BC is calling for B.C. to declare a forest and climate emergency, recognizing the role that intact forests play in both helping slow climate change and helping defend the safety and security of B.C. communities. Two immediate first steps for the B.C. government are to:
- Develop and implement an immediate “climate impact test” for logging plans. Clearcuts currently in preparation or carried out across B.C. will increase emissions and exacerbate the climate emergency. Every hectare of newly clearcut forest leaves communities more vulnerable to flooding, wildfires and loss of clean water. Logging plans must be adjusted or cancelled as needed to address the climate emergency.
- Overhaul B.C.’s legislation and regulations governing forestry. The review currently underway needs to be significantly expanded to correct the existing corporate control of public forests. The Forest Range and Practices Act (FRPA) and associated legislation and policy need a paradigm shift from a timber-based approach to a principled ecosystem-based approach to save and restore the carbon storage function and life support systems provided by B.C.’s forests, give species and ecosystems a chance to adapt to the changing climate, and reduce deadly dangers for communities.
For more information:
Sierra Club BC photos of recent clearcuts on Vancouver Island: https://www.flickr.com/photos/94279740@N07/sets/72157698359993961
Sierra Club BC report Hidden, ignored and growing: B.C.’s forest carbon emissions:
Dr. Jim Pojar report Forestry and Carbon in B.C.:
Senior Forest and Climate Campaigner
Sierra Club BC
Forester and Ecologist
(Interviews can be arranged through Sierra Club BC)