The B.C. government’s latest old-growth forest preservation could potentially shutter dozens of mills and remanufacturing facilities with a “profound impact” on communities, the Council of Forest Industries says.
The province announced deferral of logging on up to 2.6 million hectares of forest identified as rare, ancient or sustaining big trees, an area that represents about half of the identified old-growth forest that is not yet protected.
“While we are still digesting the details, our initial analysis indicates that these deferrals would result in the closure of between 14 and 20 sawmills in BC, along with two pulp mills and an undetermined number of value-added manufacturing facilities,” COFI president Susan Yurkovich said Nov. 2. “This represents approximately 18,000 good, family-supporting jobs lost, along with over $400 million in lost revenues to government each year – revenues that help pay for health care, education and other services British Columbians count on.”
Forests Minister Katrine Conroy put the potential impact at up to 4,500 jobs, depending on how Indigenous title and rights holders review the province’s recommendations. COFI noted that the review panel includes members with ties to organizations such as Sierra Club and West Coast Environmental Law.
Sierra Club B.C. released a statement praising the plan, but expressing concerns that logging in the designated areas may not stop immediately.
B.C. Green Party MLAs said the updated maps are a welcome improvement, but the NDP government has spent a year and a half studying the issue since the original old-growth strategic review was completed.
“This government did not properly consult with First Nations prior to making these announcements, and now they’re giving them 30 days to indicate whether or not they support deferrals,” said Adam Olsen, MLA for Saanich North and the Islands and a member of Tsartlip First Nation. “I’m relieved to see funding tied to this tight timeline, but so far, First Nations have been very clear that they do not feel adequately heard on forest management in this province.”