Conservation group warns an area 4 times the size of Vancouver may be logged, despite planned deferrals
A wilderness preservation group says areas of old-growth forest totalling four times the size of Vancouver have either been approved for logging or have permits pending, despite the B.C. government's stated plans to defer logging on those sites.
The map analysis by the Wilderness Committee comes as First Nations slam the government's process for approving the deferrals, which has given nations 30 days to sign off on plans in their traditional territories, a time-frame some say is insufficient.
The Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs is also criticizing the government for what it calls a lack of support for First Nations as they review deferral proposals on their lands.
“The BC NDP government has evaded responsibility and hastily thrown the conflict over old growth into the laps of Indigenous people, forcing First Nations into an impossible situation," said UBCIC Grand Chief Stewart Phillip in a news release Thursday.
"While chainsaws are still roaring and old-growth forests continue to fall, First Nations must confront multiple, complex challenges around resourcing conservation and safeguarding their livelihoods," Phillip added.
The UBCIC and the Wilderness Committee say the government's plans both fail to stop old-growth logging - as evidenced by the ongoing cutting of some of the trees slated for deferral - and fail to compensate those Indigenous communities that could suffer economically from an end to logging on their territories.
The solution, according to the two organizations, is to make the deferrals immediate and provide more support to First Nations.
“Premier John Horgan needs to quit stalling and show some courage on this pressing issue," Phillip said. "That means immediately deferring logging in at-risk old-growth while resourcing communities to pursue permanent protection.”
Stewart Muir, executive director of the resource industry advocacy group Resource Works, had a different perspective on the deferrals.
"The British Columbia government knew that the forestry deferral decision would cost jobs and harm communities," he told CTV News in an email.
"It was also obvious that nothing they did would appease those who don't want any logging at all. What was foretold is coming to pass."
Muir agreed with the UBCIC's position that First Nations haven't been given enough time or support to complete their part of the deferral process, but he rejected the calls to make deferrals immediate.
Instead, he said he'd like to see the government review the objections to the plan that it has heard and attempt to address them.
"Start with the premise that a working forest is attainable and desirable: a land base that sustains economic, social and environmental objectives," he said.
"A sustainable forest industry that contributes to British Columbia’s net zero commitments is to be encouraged. Instead, business owners are effectively being pushed to relocate their businesses to other jurisdictions. It’s hard to see what good will come of this."
'A VULNERABLE TARGET'
On Nov. 2, the province announced plans to defer harvesting of 2.6 million hectares of old growth forests. First Nations said that was the first time they saw the maps provided of proposed deferral areas. Until the deferrals take effect, clear-cutting can continue.
“The B.C. government threw the 2.6 million hectare number out there and patted itself on the back for it as if it was an accomplishment rather than a vulnerable target,” said Torrance Coste, national campaign director for the Wilderness Committee, in the release.
The committee says its analysis shows more than 50,000 hectares the government has targeted for deferral are at risk, with permits for their logging either approved or pending.
That total includes nearly 2,000 hectares approved or applied for since the province announced its deferral plan, according to the Wilderness Committee.
The organization's map is covered in red splotches, representing approved cutblocks located in intended deferral areas. It also shows cutblocks that are pending approval, as well as the other areas on which the province hopes to defer logging.
About 555,000 hectares within the operating areas of BC Timber Sales have already had logging deferred. That equates to about 20 per cent of the total the province intends to defer, according to the Wilderness Committee
With files from CTV News Vancouver's Bhinder Sajan
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