The B.C. government released its much anticipated old growth forests report and recommendations from its independent panel on Friday afternoon. Governments make announcements on Friday afternoons when they don’t want any attention drawn to the story.

There isn’t much real big old growth forest left in BC. People need clean air and clean water to be healthy and safe. Big old forests are hugely important to keep our drinking water clean, and here in the West Kootenays there is so much logging going on in watersheds.

The report’s recommendations offer some hope that people in small communities will finally be able to have a path forward to protect old forests in their backyards and make sure they have clean drinking water. We need the B.C. government to do all 14 recommendations, not just pick and choose the easiest ones. We need to put peoples’ health first.

Will you add your name to help defend our big old growth forests?

On the plus side, Doug Donaldson, Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, acknowledges that old growth forest management needs to change.

However, he also states that a moratorium on logging in old growth forests will not happen, but it will defer the logging of almost 353,000 hectares of forest in nine old growth areas in response to the report. While much of this deferral is in Clayoquot Sound and the coast, it includes 40,000 hectares in the Incomappleux Valley in the West Kootenays. Permanent legal protection for this important inland temperate rainforest habitat may now be possible.

But there’s old growth forest in the interior that is at very high risk right now for disappearing – and there’s not much left. EcoSociety’s Conservation Committee would go as far as to suggest that the 353,000 ha of forest land the government is putting into deferral was not under threat of imminent logging and that their response demonstrates an unwillingness to take the actual immediate threat to old growth forests seriously.

Another sticking point may be the government’s definition of old growth, claiming that 23% of the forested land base in B.C. is made of old growth forest. This calculation was recently contested by an independent old growth report which states that the majority of this 23% consists of small trees – which are not valuable for logging – and only about 3% of B.C.’s forested land contains the large, iconic, ancient old trees.

The government responses to COVID have shown us that we can make big changes quickly when there is political will. We can support workers and we can protect the little bit of old growth forest we truly do have left in BC. We still need a deferral on logging old growth forest until better practices are in place to ensure that ancient forests continue to provide clean air and water for people and places to live for wildlife.

Old forests are vital to the health of people and communities. The 14 recommendations from  the independent strategic review of old growth forest management in British Columbia is a good path forward to ensure B.C.’s old growth forests are around for today and generations to come, but only if the provincial government commits to fully implement all 14 recommendations.

Will you take 30 seconds and let the Province know that you support deferring logging in ALL big old growth forests?