The B.C. government’s old-growth forest review has identified nine areas where further logging is delayed for consultation with Indigenous communities in each region.
Forests Minister Doug Donaldson released a report by independent experts Sept. 11, saying he plans to put an end to a “patchwork approach” of old forest preservation that has caused a loss of biodiversity.
The nine areas total 3,350 square km, including the Seven Sisters region near Smithers, Incomappleaux Valley, Crystalline Creek and Stockdale Creek watersheds in the Kootenays, the Upper Southgate River that drains to Bute Inlet on the south coast, Skagit-Silverdaisy near the U.S. border and H’Kusam, McKelvie Creek and Clayoquot Sound on Vancouver Island.
“Those who are calling for the status quo to remain are risking crucial biodiversity loss, while those who are calling for immediate moratoriums on logging are ignoring the needs of tens of thousands of workers,” Donaldson said.
B.C.’s definition of old growth is 250 years old in the Coast region, and 140 years old in the Interior. Overall, about 13.7 million hectares or 23 per cent of the total B.C. forest base is considered old growth, and 3.75 million hectares, 27 per cent of the old growth, may be harvested under current protected area rules.
The Coast region, which includes Vancouver Island, the Central Coast area designated as the Great Bear Rainforest timber supply area and Haida Gwaii, has 7.55 million hectares of forest, with 42 per cent old growth. Questioned in the legislature in late July, Donaldson said 33 per cent of the west coast region is protected or reserved.
Vancouver Island forests are 73 per cent Crown land and 27 per cent private, much of it the legacy of colonial Governor James Douglas’ 1850s deal with coal baron James Dunsmuir to trade land for construction of the Esquimalt and Nanaimo (E&N) Railway.
Donaldson appointed two experts to conduct the “strategic review” in October, with the forest industry struggling with poor economic conditions, the B.C. government’s latest logging restrictions and continued protests calling for a moratorium on old growth logging.
The review was completed in January by Garry Merkel, a professional forester and member of the Tahltan Nation in northwest B.C., and Al Gorley, a professional forester and former chair of the Forest Practices Board that audits logging in B.C.