People held rallies in 17 ridings across B.C. on Thursday to call on the provincial government to do more to protect old growth forests.
A news release about the rallies says the date has been chosen to coincide with the three year anniversary of the provincial government committing to changing its old growth logging policies.
“[The rallies are] aimed at holding this government accountable to the promises they made in 2020 and really sending them back to the legislature next week with a clear mandate, a clear request to keep their promises and stand up for old growth forests,” Torrance Coste, national campaign director for Wilderness Committee, said.
Then-Forests Minister Doug Donaldson said the province planned to fully involve environmental groups, Indigenous leaders, forest companies, labour organizations and communities while working together to protect forests and support jobs.
At the same time, he moved nine old growth areas into development deferral.
Three years later, environmental groups say the province has not met any of the 14 recommendations in the 2020 Old Growth Strategic Review (OGSR).
“None of that has happened. We are not seeing any results from that, from their promises,” Chiyokten Wagner, with Saanich Nation, said. “It’s mostly words we end up with and words are not going to heal this world, words will not create a future for our own children and the circle of life.”
Environmental groups said the ancient forests are rich in biodiversity.
They added old growth is becoming increasingly precious as forest fires have scorched more than 2.2 million hectares across the province this year and old growth forests reduce the risk of drought, heatwaves, floods and wildfires.
Jackie Larkin with Elders for Ancient Trees told CHEK News if we lose the ancient forests, it will be devastating.
“We are going down the road of more forests fires, more floods, more disintegration of soil and the loss of so much habitat,” Larkin said.
Minister of Forests Bruce Ralston was not available for interview Thursday.
In a statement, he said the province is committed to all of its recommendations in the OGSR.
“In the past year, we have reached 2.25 million hectares of old growth deferred or protected since November 2021, with work on further deferrals underway with rights and title holders. We have updated laws and regulations to embed an ecosystem health approach in forestry decision making and we’ve created the Silviculture Innovation Program to implement more alternatives to clear cutting such as selective harvesting,” the statement read.
It added the province has also accelerated the shift from industry-developed stewardship plans to Forest Landscape Plans developed in collaboration with local communities and First Nations to better manage for ecological and cultural values.
Protestors want more to be done to protect old growth across the province.
“Permanent stops to old growth logging, permanent protections for these irraplaceable forests, we have not seen those and we have received no more clarity from the government on when they may be coming,” Coste said.
On Vancouver Island, rallies were held in the Campbell River, Courtenay—Comox, Esquimalt—Metchosin, Langford—Juan de Fuca, Nanaimo, Nanaimo—North Cowichan, Oak Bay—Gordon Head, Saanich South, Victoria—Beacon Hill and Victoria—Swan Lake ridings.
Elsewhere in the province, there were rallies at Columbia River—Revelstoke, Kelowna, Nelson—Creston, North Vancouver—Lonsdale, Peachland, Powell River—Sunshine Coast, Surrey—Whalley, and Vancouver—Point Grey.
With files from CHEK’s Mackenzie Read.