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Organizations call on Premier David Eby to keep his promise to accelerate action on old growth and deliver needed paradigm-shift.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 11, 2023
VANCOUVER/UNCEDED xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (MUSQUEAM), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (SQUAMISH) AND səlilwətaɬ (TSLEIL-WAUTUTH) TERRITORIES – Today marks the third anniversary of the B.C. NDP’s commitment to implement all 14 recommendations of the 2020 Old Growth Strategic Review (OGSR) on a three year timeline. To date, none of the recommendations have been fulfilled, while at-risk old-growth forests continue to fall.
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The Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBCIC), Sierra Club BC, Wilderness Committee and Stand.earth are calling on the B.C. government to make up for years of delays and further loss of threatened old growth by fast-tracking implementation milestones for all 14 recommendations from the OGSR, including immediate logging deferrals for the most at-risk old growth forests.
“We are at an urgent crossroads amidst the rampant wildfires that have destroyed many communities in B.C. this year and many more are still rebuilding from previous wildfires,” said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, UBCIC President. “The sheer number of forests that we have lost to the climate crisis already, is devastating. The B.C. government cannot ignore this any longer; stop logging our old-growth trees and help us start rebuilding in an ethically and environmentally friendly manner. The OGSR recommendations are merely a stepping stone; we must go above and beyond. At this rate, there will be nothing left for our children. Stop putting profit and votes over people and get to work on saving our land, water, and air.”
The OGSR outlined the need for a paradigm shift in forest stewardship to prioritize community and ecosystem values above timber. As part of its commitment, the province pledged to work with First Nations on long-term solutions, and immediately pause harvest in the most at-risk old-growth forests. Despite those promises, forests mapped as candidates for deferral continue to be targeted by logging companies.
The three-year anniversary of the OGSR falls during an unprecedented drought and record wildfire season, with more than 2.2 million hectares burned in B.C., fueled by the climate crisis and exacerbated by industrial logging.
“The last three years have been devastating in terms of escalating biodiversity and climate crises in forests in B.C., with continued habitat loss of at-risk species like caribou and spotted owl and two of the worst wildfire seasons on record,” said Jens Wieting, Senior Forest and Climate Campaigner at Sierra Club BC. “Old-growth forests are more resilient to the impacts of climate change, but the window to preserve them is closing and the B.C. government must double its efforts to end the delays and make the promised paradigm shift a reality.”
The B.C. NDP made its commitment to protect old growth and implement the OGSR in advance of the 2020 election. Despite announcements about long-term steps like an upcoming ecosystem health framework and conservation financing, B.C. has routinely failed to implement measures to keep forests standing and ensure transparency.
“Since Premier Eby promised to ‘accelerate action on old growth’ last November, we’ve seen thousands of hectares of old-growth forests destroyed. Our satellite surveillance tool Forest Eye is getting alerts for new clearcuts and road-building every day, in the same forests this government said it would put off limits to logging,” said Tegan Hansen, Senior Forest Campaigner at Stand.earth. “If this government wants to keep its promises, it has to move beyond empty words and start taking real action to keep forests standing.”
B.C.’s unfulfilled promises on old growth have been met with criticism and community-led mobilizations throughout the province. On Sept. 28, communities are planning a day of action to call on elected officials to uphold their government’s old-growth pledge.
“The public is exhausted with ‘talk and log,’ with the endless commitments and new processes accompanied by photos of fresh clearcuts in irreplaceable old growth forests,” said Torrance Coste, National Campaign Director at the Wilderness Committee. “People can connect the dots between the biodiversity and climate crisis and irresponsible forest management, and thousands remain committed to reminding the NDP of the promises they seem to be hoping we’ll forget.”
The B.C. government has not yet shared how much old growth has been logged in 2022 or how much old-growth logging has been stopped through the deferrals process since 2020. The latest available provincial data from 2019 to 2021 showed an annual old-growth logging rate equivalent to approximately 150 soccer fields per day.
The organizations state that in order to deliver on his promise to accelerate action on old growth, Eby must:
- Immediately stop logging in at-risk old-growth forests, including all areas mapped for deferral by the Old Growth Technical Advisory Panel where logging and road building is continuing, as well as any areas identified by First Nations.
- Provide full and urgent financial support to First Nations to ensure deferrals are economically viable, including compensation for revenue-sharing agreements and employment, and work with the federal government to secure a substantial increase in funding to support Indigenous-led land use planning and protection.
- Ensure fully accessible and transparent information about forests and logging — including by releasing updated maps and data showing where recent, ongoing and planned logging overlaps with at-risk old growth — and full compliance with Free, Prior and Informed Consent and the rights of Title holders.
Ellena Neel, UBCIC Communications Director
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, UBCIC President
Torrance Coste, National Campaign Director, Wilderness Committee
Jens Wieting, Senior Forest and Climate Campaigner, Sierra Club BC,
email@example.com, (604) 354-5312
Ziona Eyob, Media Director – Canada
firstname.lastname@example.org, +1 604 757 7279
Tegan Hansen, Senior Forest Campaigner, Stand.earth
email@example.com, (250) 354-3302
Forest Eye satellite monitoring
Featured photo by Mya Van Woudenberg.
In contrast, in Clayoquot Sound, most of the region’s ancient forests remain standing with little change.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 29, 2023
VANCOUVER/UNCEDED xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (MUSQUEAM), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (SQUAMISH) AND səlilwətaɬ (TSLEIL-WAUTUTH) TERRITORIES – On the 30th anniversary of the historic Clayoquot Sound mass arrests in the summer of 1993, the latest data and a new Sierra Club BC map show that 35 percent of the productive old-growth rainforests that were standing on Vancouver Island in 1993 have been destroyed in the last 30 years.
The new map and data are being released during an unprecedented drought and wildfire season in B.C., with the highest ever recorded area burned, fueled by the climate crisis and exacerbated by large-scale industrial degradation of forest landscapes. Temperate old-growth rainforests are considered the most resilient and carbon-rich type of forest in B.C., with the best chance of withstanding the risk of fire, heatwaves, droughts, and floods.
But what remains of them is shrinking every year, converted into short-rotation plantations that cannot withstand severe climate impacts and never fully recover from biomass and carbon losses. Based on the most recent annual provincial data 38,300 hectares of old-growth forest were logged across the province in 2021, equivalent to 147 soccer fields per day. On Vancouver Island only about a fifth of the original big tree old-growth forests that existed before large-scale logging started are still standing.
Thanks to the leadership of the region’s First Nations, the state of the forest looks dramatically better in the Clayoquot Sound region covering about eight percent of Vancouver Island. Here, in the territory of the Ahousaht, Tla-o-qui-aht, and Hesquiaht First Nations, most of the original big tree old-growth forests that existed before large-scale logging started remain standing today (56 percent), with little change in the last 30 years (less than seven percent reduction since 1993).
First Nations in this region have regained greater decision-making power and are engaged in various stages of planning and determining land use and conservation designations. But only a portion (17 percent) of this region’s forest has protection under provincial and federal designations and the majority of the region’s old-growth rainforest remains without effective legal protection from logging. The Ahousaht First Nation shared a land use vision in 2017 and the Tla-o-qui-aht have declared Tribal Parks to protect forests from logging and other destructive use since 1984. A temporary old-growth logging deferral has been in place since 2020 but talks about lasting solutions are still underway.
“It is disturbing to see how much old-growth has been lost across the Island and other parts of the coast just in the last few years, especially considering the role of these forests in the fight against climate change,” said Saya Masso, lands and resource director for the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation. “It gives me hope that Clayoquot Sound remains the largest cluster of intact rainforest valleys on Vancouver Island. It also means the First Nations, provincial and federal governments share a huge responsibility and urgency to ensure that regional projects like Tribal Parks, land use visions and economic development to support conservation result in lasting solutions that can inspire other parts of the province in the near future.”
In 2020, the B.C. government promised to work with First Nations across the province to follow through on all recommendations from the provincial Old Growth Strategic Review and implement its three-year framework outlining a paradigm shift in forest stewardship to protect biodiversity. However, the most recent provincial data showed stable old-growth logging rates for the period of 2019 to 2021, and none of the recommendations have been implemented yet.
“Whether we look to Vancouver Island or across the province, there is extensive industrial devastation and there are landscapes of hope. But in too many cases, logging remains the default and conservation the exception. A breakthrough to reverse this pattern and safeguard our best ally in the fight against the climate emergency will require much greater support from provincial and federal governments to overcome deeply entrenched industrial logging interests,” said Jens Wieting, senior forest and climate campaigner with Sierra Club BC. “Few places in this province are more prepared for such a breakthrough than Clayoquot Sound.”
Saya Masso, lands and resource director, Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation
firstname.lastname@example.org, (250) 726-6401
Jens Wieting, Senior Forest and Climate Campaigner, Sierra Club BC,
email@example.com, (604) 354-5312
Featured photo by Wayne Barnes.
July 28, 2023
Unceded territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-waututh) First Nations (Vancouver) — Yesterday, Government-to-Government (G2G) – Coastal First Nations, the Nanwakolas Council and the British Columbia Ministry of Forests – announced changes to the Great Bear Rainforest land-use order (GBRO), as part of a five-year review to the 2016 Agreements.
The changes are part of an important process of continually reviewing and strengthening the Great Bear Rainforest Agreements. Sierra Club BC and Stand.earth offer our congratulations to G2G for improvements, including increasing oversight by First Nations and stronger protections for cultural heritage sites; better protection and monitoring for important wildlife like grizzly bears; and strengthened requirements for watershed health and riparian zones.
Sierra Club BC and Stand.earth have provided input to the review process as members of the Rainforest Solutions Project. Our groups have raised several key concerns, which have not been addressed in the revised land use order, including:
● The revised GBRO does not effectively incorporate key findings of the provincial Old Growth Strategic Review and Old Growth Technical Advisory Panel criteria, in particular mapped at-risk old-growth areas proposed for deferral and older second-growth areas considered crucial for recruitment to reduce the level of ecological risk for big-tree ecosystems (especially in the southern Great Bear Rainforest);
● There is ongoing logging of provincially-identified high risk old growth and big-treed mature forests, in some cases not incorporated in landscape reserve designs (LRDs) and other cases in landscapes where there is no spatial planning, monitoring, or transparent reporting of logging activities; and
● The ongoing lack of transparency and equitable access to information remains a barrier to engage effectively and proactively assess ecological risk.
Lack of publicly-available information and effectiveness monitoring on key values over the last 7.5 years since the 2016 Great Bear Rainforest Agreements have been enacted, has been a continual concern for the integrity of the Agreements. We are encouraged by yesterday’s announcement confirming implementation of an updated monitoring strategy over the next two years, and look forward to greater transparency moving forwards.
The Great Bear Rainforest Agreements will undergo further, and potentially substantive, changes for the 10-year review in 2026. In light of the current climate and biodiversity crises, and the ever-expanding understanding of the importance of old-growth and mature forests, we look forward to working collaboratively to continue improving the agreements under the core tenets of Ecosystem-Based Management.
Legal gaps responsible for species decline across B.C. highlight the urgency to enact biodiversity legislation and protect critical habitat.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 6, 2023
VANCOUVER/UNCEDED xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (MUSQUEAM), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (SQUAMISH) AND səlilwətaɬ (TSLEIL-WAUTUTH) TERRITORIES – An independent case study, written by biologist Jared Hobbs, commissioned by Wilderness Committee and Sierra Club BC found that logging is the biggest contributing factor for the decline of southern mountain caribou and spotted owls in British Columbia. In the case of spotted owls, logging is pervasive across the habitat, extreme in the severity of harm and has an extremely high overall risk ranking, according to the report.
The case study assesses wildlife decline in B.C. and the legal gaps responsible in three geographic regions of B.C. (coastal, southern and northern areas), for six different species; caribou (southern mountain and boreal), spotted owls, western rattlesnake, great basin gopher snake, great basin spadefoot, and tiger salamander, representing diverse threats causing their decline.
The study uses eleven threat categories developed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to assess whether or not these threats are addressed in provincial law. Findings show that multiple IUCN threats are not being considered through provincial or federal legal measures. They also highlight that the federal Species-at-risk Act (SARA) does not have automatic legal authority on provincial crown land, which makes up 94 per cent of the landbase, and that no provincial legislation is designed specifically to protect critical habitat.
“The vast majority of threats driving wildlife decline in B.C. are not being addressed, mitigated or even considered in law,” said Charlotte Dawe, conservation and policy campaigner for the Wilderness Committee. “Since B.C. does not have a standalone law to protect species at risk on non-federal land, wildlife are being driven to extinction from things like logging, oil and gas, and highways, all which do not have policies that adequately consider their impacts to species at risk.”
The report also found there are no requirements to conduct pre-clearing surveys for spotted owls prior to commercial logging of suitable habitat. Inexplicably the forest industry is not held to compliance with the B.C. Wildlife Act when it comes to logging forested habitat during the breeding bird season in B.C.
Additionally, despite B.C.’s Forest and Range Practices Act (FRPA) requiring for some caribou and spotted owl habitat to be designated as Wildlife Habitat Areas (WHAs), some WHAs still allow logging and do not protect enough habitat of either species to the extent needed for recovery.
When it comes to caribou, the report highlighted that logging poses a double threat; severely impacting them via habitat loss, which includes the logging of mature and old forests that provide lichen caribou need as forage, and alters predator-prey dynamics due to industrial landscape fragmentation.
“I remember as a boy watching huge caribou herds crossing valleys and climbing over mountains in northeast B.C. There were too many for me to count. But government decisions—starting with the dams on the Peace River—had devastating impacts on wildlife here. Then came more roads, clearcuts, and mines, adding more negative effects to wildlife. All animals, especially the caribou have paid a heavy price for government neglect back then,” said Ken Cameron, former chief of the Saulteau First Nation.
Energy production and mining were found to be major contributing factors for the decline of boreal caribou in particular. In B.C., the method of energy production that has the largest overlap with caribou ranges is conventional oil and gas development, which typically consists of disturbances such as seismic lines, roads, pipelines, well pads, and processing facilities that occur over thousands of square kilometres. A major problem with the existing legal mechanisms to protect caribou habitat is that they do not include all critical habitat and for critical habitat designated under some forms of legislation, resource development activities are often still permitted to occur, resulting in further habitat loss within those areas.
“This case study shows that decades of industrial habitat destruction and broken promises have led the web of life in B.C. into uncharted territory,” said Jens Wieting, senior forest and climate campaigner for Sierra Club BC. “The provincial government must follow through on their commitment to work with First Nations and develop the highly anticipated biodiversity and ecosystem health declaration followed by strong legislation to give spotted owls and mountain caribou a fighting chance for survival. Interim measures like logging deferrals are crucial during this process for the survival of these species.”
The report highlights the need for the federal, provincial, and municipal governments to seek Indigenous co-creation and management of species recovery plans. These plans must include funding and decision-making authority for the Indigenous communities working to protect species at risk and biodiversity.
“Today we are showing that there is a better way. Our caribou recovery program is working. Our approach is based on our traditional knowledge along with scientific knowledge of the herds and the landscape. That is one of the reasons we have been successful. We are helping caribou populations recover and we are protecting our culture,” added Cameron.
When it comes to both the reptile case study (western rattlesnake and great basin gopher snake) and the amphibian study (great basin spadefoot tiger salamander), the report found that transportation and service corridors (roads, highways and railways) are the main cause for population declines. Shockingly, there are no legal mechanisms to protect these animals from highways or roads, as the Highway Act does not mention environmental values within its legislation.
Even though the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure is responsible for planning and managing the upkeep of the province’s entire public road network, the report found no specific provisions for managing impacts on wildlife. This means no legal requirement exists to avoid or assess harm to species at risk from roads and highways.
“This is a powerful moment in history, and it’s a turning point for B.C. and Canada and First Nations. People working together to save a species from extinction—it’s real and we can do this. A long-term commitment by the federal and provincial government will be necessary to save these caribou herds and other endangered species,” said Cameron. “ This will help make British Columbia a better place to live for everyone. It shows that we can find ways to balance the environment and the economy. I want to invite all people to join with us, support us, and help make it happen, for all future generations to come.”
Charlotte Dawe, Conservation and Policy Campaigner | Wilderness Committee
Jens Wieting, Senior Forest and Climate Campaigner | Sierra Club BC
Featured photo by Jarred Hobbs.
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