The BC NDP government continues to stubbornly defend clear-cutting high productivity old-growth forests.
The defense that has been vocalized by the Minister of Forests is that he has a clear understanding of the value of old-growth for biodiversity, but he balances that with an understanding of the economic value of clear-cutting old-growth.
While talking about managing old-growth, cut blocks continue to go up for auction by BC Timber Sales (BCTS). One such auction near Port Renfrew is highly contentious and in recent days BCTS and the Ministry of Forests have been backing away. I have received thousands of emails from British Columbians demanding a new approach to managing old-growth. The desired approach does not include cutting it until there is no more to cut.
Old-growth forests are a non-renewable resource and so sustainably managing them would look more like what the Port Renfrew community is doing by transitioning away from harvesting lumber to harvesting experiences.
Instead the Minister of Forests continues to double-down on his commitment to cutting old-growth forests, and in this instance he uses children’s enjoyment of curling as justification for a lack of alternative economic vision for coastal and forest-dependent communities.
I love the “you started it” response. That always is a very mature thing to say.
Port Renfrew, formerly a logging town, has rebranded itself as an ecotourism hot spot. This is driven in large part by the protection of Avatar Grove, an ancient coastal old-growth forest. The community is immensely proud of this. Their region is known internationally, and their economy is now thriving because their remaining ecosystem is intact. But this is at risk. Although Avatar Grove itself is protected, 109 hectares of ancient forest near Port Renfrew has been designated by B.C. Timber Sales for cutting. The clearcutting will occur within 40 metres of the Juan de Fuca Provincial Park boundary.
The citizens of Port Renfrew are frustrated by this government’s shortsighted approach. They’re angry that short-term corporate profits are valued more than the long-term local profits. The sound of these ancient giants falling will be heard by the same tourists that travelled from around the world to view the endangered forests. Their stories will be that of sorrow, not of wonder.
To the Minister of Forests, we hear the ministry and Timber Sales may be postponing the auction of old-growth timber in the Premier’s riding. The public wants to know: is this an outright cancellation or a postponement? If it’s the latter, for how long?
Hon. D. Donaldson:
I want to just acknowledge the member for Saanich North and the Islands’ question about a very important topic.
We’re blessed with amazing forests in this province. There are a variety of perspectives on old-growth management. Our government is committed to protecting the important biodiversity of old-growth forests. We also recognize the value of old-growth forests as they sustain wildlife, an important part of B.C.’s natural heritage. We’re also committed to ensuring the continued vibrancy and an innovative forest sector. Over 24,000 people are employed in the coastal forest sector.
When it comes to protecting old-growth forests, the Minister of Environment and myself met with environmental stakeholders earlier this year. We wanted to hear directly from them as part of our ongoing talks to inform our old-growth plan, and in the very near future, we’ll be launching the public engagement for this process.
As far as the Port Renfrew proposed B.C. Timber Sales cutblocks go, the member is correct. The original timber sale licence was comprised of seven blocks totalling 109.2 hectares.
Before putting up the sale, B.C. Timber Sales referred first to the Pacheedaht First Nation, conducted field work with that First Nation to identify archeological values. They conducted environmental assessments to ensure that stream and fish habitat, species-at-risk and bear den assessments were done. They confirmed that no red- or blue-listed plant communities were identified during the layout and that no legacy trees were identified within the BCTS blocks. And now BCTS is no longer considering advertising this sale in order to engage with the stakeholder, who was inadvertently missed during the initial referral process.
The Member for Saanich North and the Islands on a supplemental.
Port Renfrew is transitioning to a different approach to harvesting their surrounding resources, and, unfortunately, it’s outside the current forest policy box, because it supports local profits over the long term. They want to harvest the value of living old-growth trees as part of a responsible transitioning economy away from death and destruction.
As we’ve heard in the tight-rope rhetoric here today, and in the previous questions from this week, in question period, our Forests Minister doesn’t recognize this. Instead, he cites an appalling example of extracting old growth to fund a roof, the roof of a curling rink.
This appalling example he used on Monday is absurd, and it’s embarrassing. It clearly highlights that this government’s definition of managing old growth, as he responded in the first question, is to cut it down and continue cutting it down until it’s all gone. This is not an economic vision. It’s shortsighted. It does not support a community, an ecosystem or future generations.
I love curling, Mr. Speaker, but I love air and water and living more. The minister recognizes the economic value of liquidating old growth, but when will he recognize the long-term economic value of leaving old-growth trees in the ground?
Hon. D. Donaldson:
Well, old-growth forests are not being liquidated on Vancouver Island. We have over 500,000 hectares of old-growth forests on the Island, so old growth will not disappear from Vancouver Island.
We do recognize the interests of local communities and other stakeholders in old-growth forests that reside outside those protected areas. I would refer the member to the hundreds of school children from a neighboring First Nation who actually use the curling rink facility that I visited up in Port Hardy.
We’re committed to protecting old-growth forests as well as continuing with a vibrant forestry sector — the 24,000 jobs that rely on old-growth forests in this province. And we’re undertaking an old-growth management plan, and we’ll be conducting public engagement soon on that plan.