Dear Premier Eby:
I am a permanent resident and taxpayer of British Columbia living on the traditional territory of the Esquimalt and Songhees First Nations (Esquimalt-Metchosin constituency). Your taking office as the new premier of our province on November 18, 2022, was hosted by The Musqueam Indian Band, the first-ever swearing-in hosted by a First Nation in British Columbia. You promised swift action on the most pressing issues facing British Columbians, and to do all the work in close cooperation with Indigenous Peoples, as well as federal and municipal governments (https://news.gov.ca/2714).
I was aghast after coming across a story by The Canadian Press published by The Globe and Mail and other media on March 5, 2023, entitled “B.C. logging firm wants to avoid cutting old growth, but province says it must pay”. This story comes a mere two weeks after government’s announcement of new measures on old growth (https://news.gov.bc.ca/28240), and only a week after the large rally “United for Old Growth” took place in front of the Parliament Buildings calling for immediate and permanent old growth protection on the 2.6 million hectares of priority high-risk old-growth stands in our province.
As for any other institution, the tone for government action must come from the top. It must also be transparent, credible, and trustworthy. British Columbia Timber Sales (BCTS) is a government program managed by the Ministry of Forests under the responsibility of the minister of Forests, and ultimately the Executive Council of our province, of which you are the head. It is neither transparent, nor credible or trustworthy, for government to pursue a line of action, or to fail to exercise its powers and responsibilities, in a way that is clearly incompatible with government’s own stated official goals on the protection of priority high-risk old-growth stands in our province.
In this specific case of two government cutblock permits issued under a BCTS timber sales licence, it appears that government is shirking its own duties and responsibilities and passing them off to its constituents, whether First Nations or forest agreement holders, or both, with more irreparable harm ensuing for the environment and irreplaceable old growth ecosystems of this province. Government is not only the de facto trustee for this key irreplaceable public asset on so-called Crown land, which as you know is comprised essentially of unceded First Nation traditional territories, it is also expected to uphold the public interest, rather than prioritizing the maximization of short-term proceeds from stumpage fees through BCTS timber sales licence terms and conditions and failing to match old-growth protection funding with the over 18-month old standing government of Canada commitment of $50 million for an old-growth protection fund.
The BCTS timber sales licence holder, Downie Timber Ltd. and its owner Gorman Bros. Lumber Ltd., as well as the First Nations on whose unceded territories the two cutblocks are located, all support extended protection for the old growth stands in the areas already mapped by government’s own Technical Advisory Panel (TAP), which were published over 16 months ago on November 2, 2021.
It is my understanding that government has in the circumstances the necessary power and authority to immediately protect from logging the priority high-risk already-mapped old-growth areas located on the BCTS timber sales licence area and the two related cutblock permits of Downie Timber Ltd. through Executive Council and/or ministerial action under sections 169 and 170 of the Forest Act, thus suspending logging of these old growth stands until the licence agreement and cutblock permits expire. It is as well my understanding that government also has in the circumstances the necessary power and authority to redetermine or vary stumpage fees payable by the licence agreement and cutblock permit holder Downie Timber Ltd. under sections 105, 105.1 and 105.2 of the Forest Act.
More months or years of bureaucratic procrastination and obfuscation in the circumstances are unjustifiable and will only further undermine government’s credibility and trust with First Nations and their members, as well as with bona fide forest agreement holders and all British Columbians. Actual government deeds are necessary and urgently needed in this specific case, and you can send the right signal as the new leader of your majority government. I and many other British Columbians hope for your leadership to make a real difference.
I take the liberty to attach a more detailed commentary that I have written to show where government really stands at this juncture on old growth protection, and advocating for the tabling of a government Bill in the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia for the permanent protection of the 2.6 million hectares of priority high-risk old growth stands in our province fully mapped by the TAP over 16 months ago.
I send this letter and its attached commentary in the spirit of participatory democracy, hoping that it will receive due consideration by you and your colleagues.
Commentary on the Current Status of Unprotected Old Growth in the Forest Statutory Framework of British Columbia - YM - March 9, 2023.pdf
Or read the commentary on this page.
There are no comments to display.