Organizations call on Premier David Eby to keep his promise to accelerate action on old growth and deliver needed paradigm shift.
səl̓ílwətaʔɬ (Tsleil-Waututh), xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), and Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish) Territories (Vancouver, BC) – Today marks the third anniversary of the BC 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.
Clearcut logging of old-growth in a priority deferral area on Nootka Island (Photo by Alex Tsui, Wilderness Committee)
The Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBCIC), Sierra Club BC, Wilderness Committee and Stand.earth are calling on the BC 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 BC 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 BC 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 BC, 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 BC, 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 BC government must double its efforts to end the delays and make the promised paradigm shift a reality.”
The BC 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, BC 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.”
BC’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 BC 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.
A recent clearcut in old growth on Kwakwakaʼwakw territory, northern Vancouver Island. (Photo by Mya Van Woudenberg)