The province says 54 groves with iconic trees will be protected as the first step in old-growth forest management, but the Green Party argues ecosystem management is “glaringly absent”.
The NDP announced under a Forest Act protection measure, 54 known big trees from a University of British Columbia registry that could have been harvested will remain standing, each surrounded by a one-hectare grove acting as a buffer zone.
The province says there are 347 trees within the registry, and the 54 trees meet the criteria for being protected as big trees, with 16 of those within regional districts located on Vancouver Island.
The criteria include still being alive, not already protected in a park or protected area, on provincial land (excluding private property or federal land), having verified geographical co-ordinates for accurate location and meeting the diameter requirements by species type.
But Green Party Forests, Lands, and Natural Resources spokesperson Adam Olsen says the measure is inadequate because of what he calls ongoing and unsustainable logging of old-growth trees in the province.
“But if government were serious about protecting B.C.’s old-growth forests they would be immediately protecting the few remaining, high productivity old-growth ecosystems – not a handful of trees,” Olsen said in a statement Wednesday morning.
The Green Party says on Vancouver Island, 79 per cent of original productive old-growth forests has been logged while noting the government’s timber agency planned in May to auction more than 1,300 hectares of cut blocks in old-growth forests across the Island this year.
Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development Minister Doug Donaldson made the announcement at Francis/King Regional Park in Saanich and says there will be further opportunities to add to the list of protected big trees as they are identified and verified.
“These trees represent an important part of B.C.’s natural heritage, and British Columbians have said they want them preserved,” Donaldson says.
“What we are announcing today is the start of a broader conversation about the future of old-growth management in this province.”
An independent two-person panel will consult with First Nations, industry and communities on old-growth management starting this Fall.
The province says 55 per cent of old-growth forests on Crown land in the coastal region are already protected from logging.