Recent mapping from the Wilderness Committee is causing concern from the organization about old-growth logging in B.C. The report shows 84,669 hectares of old-growth forest have been approved for logging this year, up 43 per cent from the 59,228 hectares last year.
This comes after the Old-growth Strategic Review Panel summitted recommendations to the provincial government on how to better manage old-growth forests.
“The Old-growth Strategic Review was launched because there is a problem in this province,” said Torrance Coste, National Campaign Director for the Wilderness Committee, in a statement Monday. “In the year since it was completed Horgan’s government has made that problem worse.”
However, the BC Ministry of Forestry, Land and Rural Development says they don’t agree with the findings and don’t represent the current situation in B.C.
“We do not believe the conclusions drawn from the Wilderness Committee’s analysis accurately reflect what is happening in B.C.’s ancient forests,” said a ministry spokesperson in an email statement to CHEK News Wednesday. “The fact is, 10 million hectares of old-growth is already protected and since coming into office our government has protected hundreds of thousands more.”
The forests ministry also says they are committed to work with the Wilderness Committee to better understand their results.
Coste also says that the forestry industry should be relying on second- and third-growth forests, but haven’t because of poor management.
“That’s the way other countries around the world do forestry,” said Coste. “They cut down trees and they run their industry on trees that were planted by humans and that’s where we need to be moving.”
The forests ministry says old-growth forests are managed well, and they’ve gone to lengths to better protect them over the years.
“B.C. forests are among the most well regulated and sustainably managed in the world,” said a ministry spokesperson. “Only about 0.35 per cent of B.C.’s total forest area is harvested every year.”
“The previous government refused to take action to protect old-growth — leaving unique ecosystems and critical habitats completely unprotected,” said a ministry spokesperson. “In fact, we have taken action by protection 200,000 hectares of old-growth in nine areas that the previous government left unprotected.”
Coste says that most of the largest clear cuts in B.C. are in areas that are second- or third-growth, causing those forests to not be reliable for the forestry industry.
He also says that the majority of jobs in the forestry industry are in mills, turning harvested logs into products.
“A huge part of the solution could be in production. So much of the forests that are logged through B.C., they leave the province in a really raw format,” said Coste. “The goal should be getting as many jobs as we can per cubic metre of wood cut and right now B.C. ranks really poorly in that regard.”
However, the forests ministry says the logging of old-growth forests is necessary because of the jobs it provides for British Columbians.
“Forestry and logging support activities, and manufacturing provides jobs for more 50,000 British Columbians,” said a ministry spokesperson. “Forestry accounted for more than a quarter of B.C.’s commodity export value in 2019, and contributes $5.79 billion to the province’s gross domestic product (GDP).”
The forests ministry says old-growth logging is desirable for high-end furniture and musical instruments, and only about 27 per cent of old-growth is actually legal and economical to harvest.
Coste says the Wilderness Committee wants logging of old-growth to be halted. He says too much has already been logged for there to be a balance between logging of old-growth and second growth forests. However, he isn’t asking the government to “flip the switch” overnight and protect the forests without warning.
READ MORE: B.C. urged to protect at-risk old-growth while it works to transform forestry policy