The B.C. Green Caucus has been questioning Hon. Doug Donaldson on the continued logging of old-growth on Vancouver Island. 79% of the productive old-growth on Vancouver Island, including over 90% of the high productivity old-growth in valley bottoms, has already been logged. Only 8% of these forests have any protection at all.
In that light, we are calling on the provincial government to immediately halt logging in the few intact, high productivity old-growth hot spots that have been identified by First Nations, scientists, communities, and conservationists as areas of critical conservation value.
We want investment in mill retrofits so that the coastal logging industry is able to process second-growth and value added products and transition to sustainable forestry. Living old-growth forests have a far greater environmental, social and economic value than the one-time liquidation of the lumber. Further we are asking the provincial government to immediately begin the process of nation-to-nation consultation with First Nations regarding old-growth protection and develop a transparent engagement process for impacted communities.
Coastal old-growth is not only endangered, it is a non-renewable resource. We can either transition to a sustainable second-growth industry now, or we can cut down all the old growth and attempt to transition the industry once there isn’t any left. By then it will be too late! We need to manage our forests to protect and foster their economic, ecological, and cultural values. We need to manage them with a long term vision rather than for a short term payout.
Visit the bcgreens.ca to join in our call on government to save our last old-growth forests.
View my previous question to Minister Donaldson in Question Period.
View my 2-minute statement on celebrating old-growth forests.
British Columbia’s coastal old-growth forests are rare. These forests sustain unique and endangered ecosystems and species and are of immense cultural value to Indigenous peoples. Left standing, old growth supports entire ecotourism economies. They filter the water we drink. They’re essential to salmon health and prevent landslides and erosion.
Old growth is also a non-renewable resource, but on Vancouver Island, it’s almost gone. Seventy-nine percent of the original productive old growth has been logged, and 90 percent of the high-productivity valley bottoms are gone too.
Despite their rarity and ecological importance, we continue to actively log these forests. On the coast, 54 percent of everything we log is old growth. We’re managing them to zero.
BCTS, the government’s logging agency, just suspended their auction of 109 hectares within metres of the Juan de Fuca provincial park due to public outrage. But these auctions are happening all across the Island, and it cannot continue. To the Premier, considering what is at stake, how does he justify the continued logging of coastal old growth?
Hon. D. Donaldson:
Thank you to the member for the question, because old-growth management is important in B.C. That’s because we value old-growth forests for their contribution to biodiversity and for the way old-growth forests support forestry workers and communities on Vancouver Island, along the coast and across B.C.
We, therefore, must take a thoughtful and considered approach to old-growth management on Vancouver Island. We’ll be engaging soon on an old-growth plan with communities and First Nations on Vancouver Island. In the meantime, we’re taking steps — steps, as the member mentioned, to recognize the unique and endangered ecosystems on Vancouver Island.
We set aside 70,000 hectares on Vancouver Island and the coast for the protection of marbled murrelet and northern goshawk, and we’re ensuring that the forests of Vancouver Island are used better to support communities with our coast forest sector revitalization plan, which will drive more logs to domestic manufacturing and reduce the amount of waste so that pulp mills have better fibre supply.
The member for Saanich North and the Islands on a supplemental.
The thoughtful and considered approach is to continue cutting it, which doesn’t very last long. It only goes until there’s nothing left. Like I said, we are managing this resource to zero. Logging coastal old growth simply isn’t good for jobs in the long term, and that’s because it’s a finite resource. Once they’re gone, they’re gone. At this rate, that will be much sooner than later.
If we act now, we can successfully transition our coastal forestry to a sustainable, second-growth industry. This means using science-based methods to determine what forests to leave and which ones to harvest. All the evidence points to leaving high-productivity old growth intact. We must log selectively to minimize environmental impacts, and we need to invest in value-added manufacturing here on the coast. Value-added jobs are more resilient to market factors and higher paying. It’s the best-case scenario for forest workers, for tourism operators and for the environment.
Today we called for a moratorium on logging in old-growth hot spots on Vancouver Island. We cannot afford to wait for the government to delay any longer. The time to act is now — for the benefit of coastal economies, communities and the environment. To the Premier, will you institute a moratorium on logging the few intact productive old-growth forests on Vancouver Island?
Hon. D. Donaldson:
We aren’t managing the old-growth forests on Vancouver Island to zero. There are 500,000 hectares of old-growth forest protected in parks and other protected areas on Vancouver Island. But I do acknowledge the member’s point and those who are concerned about old-growth forest management, because old growth sustains diverse wildlife, regulates water flows and have an important impact on the nutrient cycling.
We also know that old-growth forests are an important part of communities’ economic future, as well as workers’ in the forest industry. We want to get a better understanding of that by engaging with the public, First Nations and communities — the 45 First Nations on Vancouver Island who have an interest in the forests surrounding those communities.
We’ll be doing that in a thoughtful and measured approach very soon, and that’s the way we’re going to get to better management of old-growth forests on Vancouver Island.