The B.C. government laid out its plan Tuesday for the first overhaul of forest policy in 20 years, with a shift to Indigenous control of Crown resources, and two more years of consultation on extending temporary protection of old-growth forests to more areas of the province.
Old-growth areas deferred from logging last year will be added to, but they will be further deferrals, not bans on logging, as the province redistributes its vast public forest lands, Forests Minister Katrine Conroy said.
Conroy and Premier John Horgan released the government’s 20-point policy paper June 1, setting a target to increase the Indigenous share of timber cutting rights to 10 per cent of the total. Horgan emphasized that the province won’t move unilaterally to ban logging, because that would be another colonial-style imposition on Indigenous people’s land rights.
The policy framework was released as daily arrests continue at a set of logging protest roadblocks the premier’s Vancouver Island constituency, with police enforcing a court injunction granted to Surrey-based Teal Jones Group to harvest areas containing trees that are 250 years old or more. The protests have continued despite objections from the Pacheedaht Nation, which has demanded the protesters leave the territory.
Horgan said an independent report by foresters created deferral areas of 2,000 square kilometres, as big as most of Metro Vancouver, and further deferrals of logging are possible, but discussions with the Pacheedaht and other area Indigenous groups are confidential until they are complete.
“In a time of gang violence, where we are deploying more law enforcement to address the challenges of criminals, it’s very difficult to watch law enforcement being utilized to address the passions of people in old growth forests,” Horgan said. “It’s hard work, and it involves not going back to our colonial past and dictating to Indigenous communities what they can and cannot do.”
B.C. Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau echoed the environmental groups staging the blockades, calling the NDP government’s plan “no action” on old growth preservation.
“Today Premier Horgan said it will be 2023 by the time a new old growth plan is introduced.” Furstenau said. “In the meantime, we will continue to lose irreplaceable ancient forests because of his broken promises and refusal to take meaningful action.”