Day 5: Will BC Protect Old Growth Forests?

Two Nanaimo men are demanding the province take action. It has been three years since BC’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change was given his mandate letter to “Enact an endangered species law and harmonize other laws to ensure they are all working towards the goal of protecting our beautiful province.” Their political ally, the Green party, is “calling on the BC NDP government to implement a moratorium on all high risk old-growth ecosystems across the province, while a strategy for science-based old growth management is developed.” Will the NDP Government protect Old Growth forests?

Two NDP MLAs Respond 

Robert Fuller and James Darling are now in the fifth day of a hunger strike.

Together with a small group of followers, they have demonstrated in front of Sheila Malcomson’s office every day this week. In addition to being their MLA, she is also the NDP Government Parliamentary Secretary for the Environment.

Next week they will demonstrate in front of another Nanaimo MLA’s office (Doug Routley).

Fuller and Darling wrote every MLA in the provincial legislature but, up until Friday, none of the NDP responded. 

Darling described his skype conversation with two Nanaimo MLAs in an email, “I had a meeting with Sheila Malcomson and Doug Routley via skype at 1pm today. Their message could be summarized as ‘Thanks for hunger striking. We care about old-growth too. The government is working on it but our hands are tied so we can’t do anything.’  They were very polite in the meeting.”

NDP Position On Old Growth Logging 

Before they were elected, the NDP platform stated: 

“In partnership with First Nations and communities, we will modernize land-use planning to effectively and sustainably manage BC’s ecosystems, rivers, lakes, watersheds, forests and old growth, while accounting for cumulative effects. We will take an evidence-based scientific approach and use the ecosystem-based management of the Great Bear Rainforest as a model.”

They also promised to “bring in an endangered species law and harmonize other laws to ensure they are all working towards the goal of protecting our beautiful province.”

Current NDP Position

While this could change after the Old Growth Panel finally submits its report,  a Ministry spokesperson told Cortes Currents, “Over 50% of the province’s current merchantable timber supply is comprised of forests considered as old growth (OG) …  Any reduction to old growth harvesting would reduce the size of the timber harvesting land base (THLB) and cause a corresponding decrease to associated annual allowable cut (AACs).”

The current NDP position regarding logging old growth trees is displayed on the government website

“Old-growth forests are not disappearing. There are more than 25 million hectares of old growth forests in B.C. About 4.5 million hectares are fully protected, representing an area larger than Vancouver Island. Conserving old growth is an important part of long-term resource management.”

What About BIG Old Growth Trees? 

According to B.C.’s Old Growth Forest: A Last Stand for Biodiversity, most of the forests that the government is classifying as old growth are small trees:

” … including black spruce bog forests in the northeast, subalpine forests at high elevation, and low productivity western redcedar forests on
the outer coast.”

The big trees that pretty much anybody thinks of when they hear the term ‘old growth’ are “only a tiny proportion of BC’s remaining old forest (3%).

According to the Green Party

The NDP’s political ally, the Green party:

“British Columbia’s few remaining ancient old-growth forests and the communities and ecosystems that depend on them are facing threats like never before.”

A report released by independent researchers shows that only 3% of the province’s old-growth forests remain, and that the current forest policy does not support or maintain the “natural range of ecosystem diversity, thus posing high risk to biodiversity and carbon storage.”

“In other words, BC’s old growth forests are highly productive ecosystems, but the current production levels are so low that they don’t actually support biodiversity.”

“While we await the results of the report from the Old Growth Panel, after already waiting 3 years, these old forest ecosystems have been harvested at an alarming rate. We cannot continue to log in these irreplaceable ecosystems as the government works on their long awaited strategy.”

protect BC’s Old Growth forests
One of many demonstrators in Nanaimo – courtesy – Dan Tkachuk

Quadra Island Resident Writes Horgan

Geraldine Kenny, one of many Quadra Islanders who cancelled their NDP membership as a result of the party’s failure to take action on salmon farms or old growth logging, wrote a public letter to Premier Horgan:

“James Darling and Robert Fuller are not starting their day, like you and I with a tasty nutritious breakfast, nor will they have lunch, nor will they have dinner.  These very brave and courageous British Columbians are on hunger strike.  Their moral conscience has compelled them to take this drastic action to prove to you that you must stop logging old growth in BC…!  They will start eating when you stop cutting old growth, it is that simple.”

“There are enough world renowned scientists who declare deforestation, as is practised in BC, is scientific ecocide.”

“Can you quote any internationally respected researcher who applauds the clear cutting old growth forest your government not only condones but encourages?”

“Logging in BC now requires government, ie., public funding.  This industry can’t even fund itself let alone make a profit.  Sweden half the size of BC gets double the forestry revenue and is increasing its forest lands while logging.”

 “There is something very wrong here and your government needs to fix it.  So the next time you have something to eat, think of James Darling and Robert Fuller.  Let your your conscience guide you to do the right thing…..stop logging old growth now.”

This article was originally published on July 31 and revised, after word of the meeting with Malcomson and Routley came in, on August 1, 2020.

Top photo credit: James Darling on Day 5 of the Nanaimo Hunger Strike – courtesy – Dan Tkachuk photo

James Darling and Robert Fuller at the Ministry of Forests and Environment office on day 6 – Dan Tkachuk photo

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