Premier Horgan thinks deferring logging on 200 hectares of old-growth forest is a "monumental step." Maybe there's less of it than has been claimed?
June 9, 2021
BC Premier John Horgan at a press conference announcing he was all for saving old-growth forests
AFTER ANNOUNCING 2-year logging deferrals for the Fairy Creek watershed and the central Walbran Valley, BC Premier John Horgan said: “These are monumental steps. I know it appears, at the moment, to be just another announcement by another premier...”
He was right. It does appear to be just another announcement by another premier, a hyperbolic one at that. Monumental? Definitely not.
Horgan announced 2-year logging deferrals on “2000 hectares” of old forest. It would have been monumental if, first, he had announced the permanent protection of 2000 hectares of actual old forest and then, second, had said something to this effect: “This is just the first, irrevocable step, one that can’t be backed away from in two years or ten, in our steadfast commitment to save the rest of BC’s now rare, biologically productive old forest, of which as little at 400,000 hectares remain in all of BC—can you believe we let that get so low? What an ecological catastrophe! Who were the nit wits-that engineered this fiasco!”
That would have been monumental. Such a statement would have shown that Horgan wasn’t just playing kick-the-can-down-the-road. Instead, he kicked two cans down the road.
First, the premier re-announced a 2-year deferral in the central Walbran that most of us already knew had been deferred in September 2020, and wasn’t in any danger of being logged. According to the Order In Council that established the deferral, it was to cover 1,489 hectares. Today the ministry recognized that it contains 1150 hectares of old forest.
Second, Horgan deferred logging for 2 years in the “small area” that Teal Cedar Ltd has been claiming for months was all that the company could cut in Fairy Creek Valley because “most of the watershed is protected forest reserve or unstable terrain, and not available for harvesting.”
After Horgan’s announcement, mapping released by the ministry of forests showed the area at Fairy Creek that’s been deferred for 2 years. Based on that mapping, we estimate there are about 100 hectares of the valley in the deferral area that weren’t already “protected forest reserve or unstable terrain,” as Teal Cedar Products Ltd has described it.
Putting what Teal has said together with what Horgan announced today and the ministry has mapped, we find the surprising result that 100 + 1150 = 2000.
If you’re thinking, “Wait, that doesn’t add up,” you’re correct. What that arithmetic shows is the sleight of hand used today by industry, the ministry and the premier. Last week, according to them, Fairy Creek Valley was almost all “protected forest reserve or unstable terrain.” This week, in a monumental step, the premier turned all that “protected forest reserve or unstable terrain” into a 2-year logging deferral.
The Rainforest Flying Squad had originally been trying to save about 2100 hectares of contiguous rainforest, including the entire Fairy Creek Valley and areas of intact forest outside it. But their movement to save the last of the old-growth forest on southern Vancouver Island is apparently gaining more and more public support as their forest defences are assaulted by a militarized unit of the RCMP. What will they do now?
Following Horgan’s announcement, the Flying Squad’s Saul Arbess made a gracious acknowledgment of Horgan’s monumental step: “It’s a good deferral, however it falls short of the deferrals required to pause logging in all of the critically endangered areas currently being defended, for generations to come.”
Why would Arbess think 100 hectares is a “good deferral”?
This is an important point. Arbess knows that the part of Fairy Creek Valley that Teal and the ministry have claimed are “protected forest reserve” are actually only “protected” until Teal and the ministry decide to move the “protection” to some other part of TFL 46. This happens all the time, all over BC, to Old Growth Management Areas, Wildlife Habitat Areas and other forms of transitory “protection” that have been created by the ministry of forests to create the appearance of protection—until such time as a company wants to log that “protected” area.
If there was a monumental step taken today, it was that the ethical corruption that grips the ministry of forests and the forest industry was made plain, for everybody to see. To do this and then call it an “honouring” of a First Nations’ request is disturbing.
When he isn’t out walking through forests, David Broadland is writing about the problems they face.