Looking up at the trees in a forest

BC confirms Sierra Club’s findings on 2021 old-growth logging

Editor’s note: Forestry is one of Campbell River’s 3 economic pillars and this confirmation of what the environmentalists have been saying about the need to preserve old growth is very important.

By Madeline Dunnett, The Discourse, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The province-wide old-growth rally on Sept. 28 brought attention to the 14 recommendations the provincial government committed to implementing in 2020 to protect old-growth forests.

The recommendations came out of a multi-year independent strategic review of how B.C. forests are managed and included an immediate recommendation that the province work with First Nations to defer logging in old, at-risk forests until the new strategy was implemented.

Shortly before the rally, Sierra Club BC, a provincial environmental advocacy group, issued a review of B.C.’s old-growth logging stating it had increased between 2020 and 2021, instead of decreased, as the government had previously announced

The Discourse followed up with the B.C. Ministry of Forests about the number of old-growth logged, and the ministry responded with the same number released by Sierra Club. 

“The most updated data shows that 45,700 hectares or 0.4% of the 11.1 million hectares of old growth in B.C. were logged in 2021 province-wide,” the ministry said in an email.

The province had earlier stated that the number logged was 38,000 hectares in 2021.

The ministry did not comment on whether Sierra Club assisted in the findings for the 45,700 hectares, but shared that the amount of old-growth harvesting is derived from two sources. 

“The harvest reports from permit holders that are submitted at the completion of harvesting activity [and] change-detection mapping using satellite imagery,” the email said. 

The ministry uses satellite image detection in order to approximate harvest mapping until they receive submissions from licensees. They use satellite imagery for private land harvesting as well. 

The email stated that the main reason for their 2021 update was because it can take harvesting under permits one to two years to be completed.  

“The initial area is often revised as submissions from licensees are received.”

The ministry said that they are working on updating the harvested areas with their newest information, and that the preliminary number for 2022 will be updated in British Columbia’s data catalogue by the end of October. 

Jens Wieting, Senior Forest and Climate Campaigner and Science Advisor at Sierra Club BC, said he thinks it is clear that the ministry released the updated 2021 numbers in reaction to Sierra Club’s findings.

“They reacted to media requests for comments with their statements essentially confirming our findings,” he said.

Wietings said that Sierra Club is hoping for them to carry out the fifth recommendation from the Old Growth Strategic Review, which called for “timely and objective information about forest conditions and trends” 

“We are in October, and we still don’t know how much old growth got logged in 2022,” he said.

Three years after the old growth strategic review was released, on Sept. 11, Sierra Club, the Union of BC Indian Chiefs and the Wilderness Committee released a statement calling on Premier David Eby to increase action on old-growth protection. 

Wietings did say that he thinks there has been a small amount of progress in the logging deferrals that the ministry worked out with First Nations. 

The forests surrounding the Comox Valley were excluded from the strategic review because they are managed separately as private land — these forests were privatized in the 1880s as part of the E&N Land Grant, which the Hul’qumi’num Treaty Group calls a “clear act of colonial theft.”

The province announced its intention to work with First Nations to defer 2.6 million hectares of old growth forest from harvesting in 2021. Some of these deferrals have now expired and continue to be re-negotiated.

“It’s a step in the right direction,” he said, but “since we are in an ecological emergency, it is paramount to address these most at-risk old-growth forests first.” 

Top image credit: Trees at Avatar Grove, an old-growth forest just outside of Port Renfrew. Photo by Shalu Mehta/The Discourse

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