Thousands of people from all over the province gathered at the B.C. legislature to call on Premier David Eby to speed up old growth forest protection efforts.
On Saturday, participants gathered at Centennial Square before marching down Douglas Street to the legislature building chanting “let’s save old growth.”
The United for Old Growth rally backed a declaration signed by more than 210 organizations and participants, calling on Premier David Eby and the B.C. NDP government to honour their promise to move faster to protect old growth forests and reform forest stewardship across the province.
“Eby promised 100 days ago that within his first 100 days in office, he would accelerate action in old growth and we are still seeing the most at risk old growth forests fall while his government continues to delay action,” Tegan Hansen, with Stand.earth, said. “So we are here all together today for a united call for him to meet his promise and do better for these forests.”
Rally organizers told CHEK News old growth forests are dwindling at a rapid pace due to B.C.’s logging practices, adding this is devastating as these forests are important to our ecosystem.
Janelle Lapoint, Indigenous rights and climate change organizer, said old growth forests have been cultivated over thousands of years and contain an ecosystem that humans, animals and other plants rely on.
“They not only provide carbon capture to ensure we have a stable living climate, but we all depend on them as keystone ecosystems and the species that live in them,” Lapoint said.
She, along with a number of other scheduled speakers including environmentalist David Suzuki, spoke about the importance of preserving old growth trees.
Then organizers surprised the crowd with a performance from legendary rocker Neil Young.
— Sierra Club BC (@SierraClubBC) February 25, 2023
This rally comes one week after the provincial government announced an eight point plan to protect old growth forests.
The plan centers around $25 million for new Forest Landscape Planning (FLP) tables that will drive improved old–growth management while incorporating local knowledge and community priorities.
“Our forests are foundational to B.C. In collaboration with First Nations and industry, we are accelerating our actions to protect our oldest and rarest forests,” Eby said in a release. “At the same time, we will support innovation in the forestry sector so our forests can deliver good, family-supporting jobs for generations to come.”
It also includes ramping up government investments to support innovation in the forestry industry.
The Province will double the new BC Manufacturing Jobs Fund to $180 million and expand eligibility provincewide.
The fund will support mills to process smaller-diameter trees and manufacture higher-value wood products, such as mass timber.
It will accelerate shovel-ready projects across the manufacturing ecosystem that will bring direct benefits and stable, family-supporting jobs to communities throughout the province.
Previously, the fund was restricted to projects outside of Metro Vancouver and the Capital regional districts.
“As we work to protect more old growth, we know we need to accelerate our efforts to build a stronger, more innovative forestry industry that better shares the benefits with workers and communities. Forestry is a foundation of B.C.’s economy,” said Bruce Ralston, Minister of Forests. “That’s why we are doubling provincial investments to help mills retrofit to get off old–growth logs and manufacture more high-value wood products right here in B.C., so we create more jobs from every tree.”
Hansen said while this plan has some good indications, it’s almost too little too late.
“It wasn’t the results that we needed, nor was it what the government has promised to do for us,” Hansen explained. “I think we are passed the time for the government to make these long term promises and to actually show us meaningful results on the ground.
Rally participants are calling on the province to halt all old growth logging until a plan to fully protect those forests is agreed upon between the government and Indigenous communities across B.C.