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Are logging companies targeting old-growth deferral areas?

David Broadland

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In November 2021, then forests minister Katrine Conroy announced that, in response to the 2020 report of the Old Growth Strategic Review Panel, the ministry would begin consulting with First Nations on whether they would agree with old-growth deferral areas mapped in their traditional territories.

At the same time, mapping of proposed deferral areas was released. The mapping was conducted by the Old Growth Strategic Review's Technical Advisory Panel.

Since that time, various cases of logging in deferral areas has been reported.

In this forum we will attempt to track what's happening in different parts of the province. If you know of logging that has occurred in a deferral area, please let us know and we will track down the particulars.

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I and others are distraught regarding how the Province is handling the old-growth deferrals. Cutting Permit 714, in the Babine River watershed, is an unacceptable example of old-growth deferrals not being deferred.
Also, there appears to be no opportunity for public voices to be heard regarding the fate of the old growth deferral areas outside of First Nation consultations. This is not how we imagine democracy to work regarding public lands/First Nations’ traditional territories.
It is business as usual for forest licensees who choose to ignore “voluntary” deferrals, unless clear direction is given by the representative First Nation authority to support the old-growth deferral within their traditional territory or a portion thereof. Cutting Permit 714 was approved post old-growth deferral mapping, an area amounting to 410 ha. 
Natural Resource District Managers (Statutory Decision Makers) are approving Cutting Permits that overlap mapped old growth deferral areas, highlighting how disfunctional the Forest and Range Practices Act is.
This is what is posted on the government website:
Old growth deferral areas
We are currently working in partnership with Indigenous Nations to defer logging activity within 2.6 million hectares of B.C.’s most at-risk old growth forests.
Approved short-term deferrals will help protect and support these ecosystems while First Nations, the Province, and other partners develop a new approach for old growth forest management.
To support the deferral process, government will immediately cease advertising and sales of BC Timber Sales in the affected areas.
Approaches to deferrals
There are several mechanisms for deferring harvest in old forests. These include:
Voluntary deferrals, where a licensee or tenure holder volunteers to avoid harvesting in areas for a period of time
Regulation based deferrals including the use of Part 13 of the Forest Act to establish a legally enforceable deferral
Directed deferrals, in the case of the provincial government providing direction to BC Timber Sales
Some old growth deferral areas are established under Part 13 of the Forest Act as “designated areas” and the Act gives the authority for a Ministerial Order (MO) to direct activities within those designated areas….only 11 locations have been designated under Part 13 of the Forest Act (see web site link).
Cutting Permit 714 is a classic example of road right-of-way logging and clear cutting that is targeting old growth deferral areas, with the forest licensee being NorthPac. This is evidence that a forest licensee can ignore an old- growth deferral because it is “voluntary” in this case, as it is with the majority of old-growth deferrals in the province.
I am currently pleading with Ministers Bruce Ralston and Nathan Cullen to re-set provincial policy direction to ensure that old growth deferrals remain as such, until such time that a collaborative outcome is arrived at through revised land use plans or alternate mechanism favourable to all. As part of the wider ForestWatch network, please consider ramping up the pressure to provide our elected officials the political capital to do what is right….write to them directly, set up face-to-face meetings, etc.
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Thanks for your example Len. I did a bit of mapping and overlayed Cutting Permit 714 on TAP's the Priority Deferral Areas map.

Here's what the area looked like around 2017:



Here's what TAP's 2021 Priority Deferral Map showed. The solid green polygons are the priority deferral areas:



And here's what Cutting Permit 714 (tan areas outlined in red) looks like overlayed on top of the Priority Deferral Areas map. Use the lake as a reference.



There's obviously a lot of overlap between the deferral areas and the cutting permit. But does this mean that the logging company is targeting the deferral areas? It might be that the planning for CP 714 began well before the deferral areas had been announced. The logging company's map of CP 714 shows it was from August 2021, well before the deferral areas were announced in November 2021.

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This map (see screenshot below) is very good if you are keen on seeing how forest development is taking place, past, present and near future: https://www.evergreenalliance.ca/esri-map-pages/forest-tenure-cutblocks/

You can pan around the map all over BC and zoom into your area of interest, mouse click on a cutblock, and extract the block’s information.

It shows that CP 714's approval date was Nov. 4, 2022, not Nov. 2021. Planning for the CP was likely happening prior to the government's announcement of the old growth deferrals, but it was known, prior to CP 714's approval, that the cutblocks overlapped the deferral areas … large trees with some prime timber according to a reliable source that ground-truthed the area. The deferrals, like most of the province, are voluntary and according to current provincial policy, can be logged if the representative First Nation either endorses the forest development (cutting permit), does not endorse the old growth deferrals, or remains silent in either supporting or not supporting the deferrals on their traditional territory. I have no idea how this works with territorial overlap disputes, which are common throughout B.C.



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Yes, you are right Len. That map is from the Ministry of Forests own database. So CP 714 was approved by the ministry a full year after TAP released its mapping of deferral areas. I found a satellite image of the area taken on January 30, 2023 and the logging company, NorthPac, wasted no time after the cutting permit approval to begin building roads and logging forest (green arrow):


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What we are seeing across the province is business as usual within mapped priority old-growth deferral areas, unless the respective FN authority states otherwise within their traditional territory or a portion thereof. Exemptions are the eleven Forest Act Part 13 designated areas such as Fairy Creek. To my knowledge, at least in north-central and northwest B.C., there are minimal examples, if any, of FN authorities supporting the old-growth deferral areas at this time, due, in part, to their wishes of putting forward their land-use objectives rather than the perception of “colonial” government tabling a proposal for their decision. To make matters more complicated, a good percentage of FNs have forest licences, but continue to contract clear-cut-mentality logging companies for quick capital return. The vision/implementation of sustainable stewardship, canopy retention forestry, net-zero forestry, stand management for all valued ecosystem components alludes many of us. 
All of you know that we who stand for forestry transformation are supportive of traditional Indigenous values, more self-governance and long-term economic prosperity, but it appears that reconciliation in the eyes of the provincial government is more about corporate economic assimilation, and the provincial government is succeeding, despite change-over of governance parties.
Where do we go from here? How about we explore the possibility of a legal challenge that could stop destructive logging from destroying valued ecosystem components based on violation of the rights of those components. We do not permit Neo-Nazi parties or the Klu Klux Clan to operate in Canada on the basis of infringement of the rights of others, so why do we permit a similar situation in "forest management"? Now that would be a precedent-setting case that could ensure that another northern goshawk territory does not blink out, that our watersheds are not a risk of loss of hydrological integrity, that the remaining fraction of productive old growth outside of protected areas is not extinguished…and the list goes on.
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