The remains of what used to be a mix of old-growth cedar, Douglas fir and natural second-growth hemlock lay on Edinburgh Mountain, which was logged by Teal-Jones, near Port Renfrew, on Vancouver Island, on Thursday, Nov. 21, 2019. (Melissa Renwick photo)
The B.C. government is taking their first step to protecting old-growth forests by calling for an immediate deferral of logging in nine old-growth regions across the province.
These actions were taken following an independent panel report titled, A New Future for Old Forests, which is meant to steer an overhaul of forestry regulations.
Developed by government-appointed panel members Garry Merkel and Al Gorley, 14 recommendations were submitted to the province.
Clayoquot Sound is one of the nine identified areas, where 260,578 hectares of old-growth forests are being protected.
Terry Dorward, Tla-o-qui-aht Tribal Parks project coordinator, calls it “a step in the right direction.”
Promising to engage the full involvement of Indigenous leaders and organizations is one of the initial actions government is taking in formulating an old-growth strategy.
By breaking “from the divisive practices of the past,” the province is aiming to conserve biodiversity, while supporting jobs and communities – especially on the coast and Vancouver Island, read a release from the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development.
Dorward hopes that this new process will create an opportunity to have “proper nation-to-nation dialogue with the province.”
“In the past we’ve had concerns of the extinguishment of Nuu-chah-nulth title,” he said. “The language [the province is] now speaking is in tune with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples where it states that we can define who we are as a nation. We’re going into these discussions hopeful – hopefully there’s light at the end of the tunnel.”
Old growth forests are being defined as trees more than 250 years old on the coast and more than 140 years old in the interior of B.C.
Around 60 per cent of B.C.’s land is forested and 23 per cent of those forested lands are old-growth forests.
"For many years, there has been a patchwork approach to how old-growth forests are managed in our province, and this has caused a loss of biodiversity. We need to do better and find a path forward that preserves old-growth forests, while supporting forest workers," said Doug Donaldson, Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, in the release. "Those who are calling for the status quo to remain are risking crucial biodiversity loss, while those who are calling for immediate moratoriums on logging are ignoring the needs of tens of thousands of workers. Our government believes in supporting workers, while addressing the needs of old-growth forests, and these values will guide our new approach."
Master carver Joe Martin said that only time will tell if the province fulfills their promises.
“Actions speak louder than words,” he said. “Indigenous people stewarded the forests for thousands of years and I think that it should be handled in a very similar way to how they managed the forests. They had respect for all the birds and creatures.”