clearcuts east from the West Coast trail and Pacific Rim National Park

Campbell River opposes implementing the Old-Growth Strategic Review

On March 29th, the city of Nanaimo passed a resolution calling on the provincial government “to immediately defer logging in all high productivity, rare, oldest, and most intact old-growth forests as recommended by the Old-Growth Strategic Review, until all 14 of the panel’s recommendations have been implemented.” This issue was hotly contested. Four of the nine councillors present, include Mayor Leonard Krog whose signature is at the bottom of the letter that subsequently went out, were opposed. Never-the less at least eight other municipal governments, and the Comox Valley Regional District, have passed similar resolutions calling implementation of the recommendations of province’s Old-Growth Strategic Review. In response, Campbell River passed an opposing resolution, calling for “an elevated direct response of support for Forest operations based on fact and science” at their April 26th Board Meeting.

This motion was brought forward by Councillor Charlie Cornfield, who did not explain what parts of the Old-Growth Strategic Review are unscientific, or how he came to that conclusion. 

Photo courtesy Jens Wieting, Sierra Club BC

The Old Growth Strategic Review

The Strategic Review cites previous reports, “scientific studies and data,” thousands of “written submissions and emails,” as well as “nearly 800 interviews.”

Some of the key conclusions are: 

  • “Based on the government’s forest inventory definitions, about 23%, or 13.2 million hectares is “old growth”. (p 24)
  • but 80% of this “consists of relatively small trees growing on lower productivity sites” (p 26)
  • “Sites with the potential to grow very large trees cover less than 3% of the province. Old forests on these sites have dwindled considerably due to intense harvest so that only 2.7% of this 3% is currently old.”(p 37)

Previous Reports

A 1992 Ministry of Forest’s Old Growth Strategy for British Columbia is quoted in the forward:

“Not only does the forest industry depend heavily on old growth for its current wood supply, but many new demands are being placed on the remaining old growth to satisfy a broad range of forest values. In parts of the province, meanwhile, opportunities to reserve representative samples of old growth are dwindling rapidly (emphasis added). These pressures are leading to increased instances of conflict among supporters of competing land uses.”

The authors of the Old Growth Strategic Review claim that if the province had carried out the recommendations of that three decade old document:

“We would likely not be facing the challenges around old growth to the extent we are today:

  • High risk to loss of biodiversity in many ecosystems. 
  • Risk to potential economic benefits due to uncertainty and conflict. 
  • Widespread lack of confidence in the system of managing forests.”(p 6)

A number of subsequent studies also stated that old growth forests need to be protected. Among them, the recommendations of the Forest Practices Board on old growth management (from 2012) and the Auditor General’s report on biodiversity (2013).  

Recommendation six

The Old Growth Strategic Review makes fourteen recommendations.  

The Comox Valley Regional District and municipal governments of CourtenayCumberlandLantzvilleMetchosinNanaimoPowell RiverPort Moody, and Victoria all asked the BC government to follow the sixth: “Until a new strategy is implemented, defer development in old forests where ecosystems are at very high and near-term risk of irreversible biodiversity loss.” 

‘Disinformation, misinformation and outright lies …’ 

Charlie Cornfield gave his response at the City of Campbell River’s April 26th Board meeting.

“It’s time we stood up and are counted,” he told the rest of the council.  

Cornfield suggested that they send a letter to Nanaimo, “expressing our disappointment and support for the mayor and those that were opposed to the passing of their resolution curtailing the harvesting of old growth. It is based on disinformation, misinformation and outright lies. It is false information and for them to pass a resolution based on this is deeply disturbing. I’m tired of it. I’ve watched year after year. People get up at our conventions and they ramble off on stuff that is not factual information. This one gives us an opportunity to go back to them and say we are disappointed and annoyed that they could buy into that misinformation.”

He continued, “That goes for the groups that are anti-logging. I think it is time to say hey, we do not appreciate it.” 

The demonstrators at Fairy Creek should have stood down after the Supreme Court of British Columbia granted Teal Jones an injunction

“If you do not like the rules that are in place, change the rules. Run for  council; run for being an MLA, run for your provincial government get elected and then you can change the rules,” said Cornfield.

Missing the point

“In my opinion when we lost our pulp mill, they took the wrong mill. If Nanaimo council does not support your forest sector, then send your sawmill up here. We’ll take it, they obviously do not appreciate the economic impact and the social impacts that come along with it,” said Cornfield. 

He added that there was more to forestry than just cutting down big trees:  “There is a lot of good environmental work that is done by forest companies.” 

Two Councillors agree

Councillor Ron Kerr said, “Certainly I’m getting tired of the lies and emotional issues … I think it is time to stand up and support our industry.” 

Councillor Sean Smyth added, “One of the things I want to talk about is misinformation, poor data, and what you guys are calling lies. This year I had the pleasure of cracking 10,000 hours of flight time. The vast majority of that is in helicopters, up and down the coast, on Vancouver Island. I’ve been up and down every valley. In essence, I am one of the guys that is paid to look at old growth. I know exactly how much is out there. A lot of this campaign is based on poor data and misinformation. I’m really proud that our council is standing up and saying something about it.” 

Opposing Resolution

Cornfield made the following motion: 

“Whereas the City of Campbell River is the third largest City on Vancouver Island and a hub for Coastal Forest Operations; And whereas Economic Recovery is an essential component of the Covid 19 Pandemic Response;

And whereas the recommendations of the citizens economic recovery task force include supporting and assisting the forest sector; And whereas the viability of the forest sector is currently threatened by the actions of anti-logging organizations, local governments (mainly Nanaimo), and reporting by Media.”

“Now therefore be it resolved that City Council immediately provide an elevated direct response of support for Forest operations based on fact and science; And be it further resolved that this response be directed to all local governments, First Nations, the Premier and Minister of Forests, Minister of Municipal Affairs and MLA’s, and Media outlets, with copies to forest sector companies, COFI (Council of Forest Industries), TLA (Truck Loggers Association), and Resource Works.”

This motion was seconded and passed without a single dissenting voice.

Chart compiled from various sources by Roy L Hales

Not just Nanaimo … 

As was mentioned earlier, Nanaimo is not the only city urging the province to implement recommendation six. Victoria, Lantzville,  Metchosin, Powell River, Port Moody, Cumberland passed similar resolutions. Courtenay would soon join them. 

The debate can be traced back to Question period in the provincial legislature, where on March 11th Green party leader Sonia Furstenau pointed out, “One of the key recommendations is to immediately defer logging of the most at-risk old growth to prevent loss of rare ecosystems. The report specified that this must happen within six months. Here we are, and this government still has not taken any meaningful action to protect these forests. Instead, we are losing critical old-growth stands, as the old strategy of talk and log continues.

BC’s Minister of Forests, Katrine Conroy replied, “We want old-growth forests to be appreciated by people today and in the years to come. It’s also a priority for our government to support good jobs for people in B.C.’s forestry sector. That’s why our government asked the independent panel to advise us on how we can do better when it comes to protecting our old-growth forests. Our government is dedicated to implementing the recommendations to ensure new, holistic approaches to how we manage B.C.’s old-growth forests.”

There was no to reference to misinformation in the Strategic Review, only the speed with which its recommendations are being implemented. 

The strategic review made fourteen recommendations:

Recommendations on conditions required for change: 

  • (1) Engage the full involvement of Indigenous leaders and organizations to review this report and any subsequent policy or strategy development and implementation. 
  • (2) Declare conservation of ecosystem health and biodiversity of British Columbia’s forests as an overarching priority and enact legislation that legally establishes this priority for all sectors. 
  • (3) Adopt a three-zone forest management framework to guide forest planning and decision-making. 
  • (4) Adopt a more inclusive and stable governance model that gives local communities and stakeholders a greater role in forest management decisions that affect them. 
  • (5)Provide the public with timely and objective information about forest conditions and trends. 

Recommendations for immediate Responses

  • (6) Until a new strategy is implemented, defer development in old forests where ecosystems are at very high and near-term risk of irreversible biodiversity loss. 
  • (7) Bring management of old forests into compliance with existing provincial targets and guidelines for maintaining biological diversity. 
Mark Worthing of Sierra Club BC standing on a slash pile – courtesy Sierra Club BC

For improving management: 

  • (8) Establish and fund a more robust monitoring and evaluation system for updating management of old forests. 
  • (9) Establish a standardized system and guidance that integrates provincial goals and priorities to local objectives and targets. 
  • (10) Update the targets for retention and management of old and ancient forest. 
  • (11) Improve the mapping and classification of old forests to recognize multiple values. 
  • (12) Create a silviculture innovation program aimed at developing harvesting alternatives to clearcutting that maintain old forest values.

For orderly transitions: 

  • (13) Once developed, implement the new policies and strategies for for the management of old forests through mandatory provincial and local transition plans that define, schedule and monitor the process. 
  • (14) Support forest sector workers and communities as they adapt to changes resulting from a new forest management system
Ancient Forest Alliance campaigner and photographer TJ Watt sits alongside an ancient redcedar in an old-growth forest of the Nahmint Valley, near Port Alberni, before and after clearcut logging – courtesy Ancient Forest Alliance

Resolutions to implement recommendation six

Top photo credit: Clearcuts east from the West Coast trail and Pacific Rim National Park – by Jens Wieting of Sierra Club BC (July 2016)

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