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B.C.-wide call made for protection of old-growth forests

Protesters target MLAs as province has yet to implement review panel’s 14 calls to action

What the climate will look like in the future concerns David Chaplin, and he says the feeling is shared by many.

It’s why he was out to show his support at a Victoria demonstration against the continued logging of old-growth forests in B.C. – joining 17 similar actions outside MLA offices province-wide on Thursday (Sept. 28).

“Three years have passed since the B.C. government promised to implement a paradigm-shift in forest stewardship laid out in its own Old Growth Strategic Review (OGSR). Yet the government has made little progress on their promises,” event organizers said.

Intact old-growth forests are one of B.C.’s best allies amid the climate crisis, the demonstrators said, noting they help mitigate environmental disasters and support ecosystems.

Chaplin touted how the forests absorb carbon pollution and help to cool communities.

“It’s easier to go out to the forest, enjoy the natural beauties and cool down rather than sitting in a living room with an air conditioner on, and that’s not going to happen anymore,” Chaplin said. “There are just so many places you can’t go to anymore because they’re just not there, they’ve been devastated by industrial logging, mining and other resource extractions.”

Protesters chanted outside MLA Sheila Malcolmson’s Nanaimo office as well, hoping to create dialogue and raise awareness for the “soccer field”-sized sections of old-growth being logged.

“There are just a few areas, Clayoquot Sound, Fairy Creek, the Great Bear Rainforest, that we can really call intact ecosystems,” said David Quigg, an organizer with environment advocacy group Sierra Club B.C. “Not only do we have to stop the further logging of old growth, we need to give the second growth a chance to rehabilitate and become a thriving ecosystem to manage these forests.”

It was a similar message outside Michelle Babchuk’s office in Campbell River.

“We’re experiencing a climate emergency… and it’s time that we really do an honest re-think about how we manage forests in British Columbia, “said Anna Hooper.” I want the NDP to stand up and make good on their word that they would defer old growth logging. They’re not following their own recommendations.”

Demonstrators in Victoria joined others across the province on Sept. 28 as they called for more protection of old-growth forests. (Jake Romphf/News Staff)

Embedded in Victoria’s gathering was Georgina Kirkman, who said she’s not against logging but wants to see a more sustainable forestry approach as she’s concerned about clear-cuts amplifying floods and fires.

“There are lots of scientific reasons to not clear-cut,” Kirkman said. “I Don’t hate loggers, I don’t hate logging, but we’ve got to do it right, we’ve got to think of the future.”

Forests Minister Bruce Ralston said the province created a silviculture program that’s implementing more alternatives to clear-cutting as B.C. shares the desire to protect old-growth forests.

The province has taken steps to shift from industry developed stewardship plans as Ralston said they’re prioritizing ecosystem health and community resiliency by supporting co-governance of the land with First Nations.

“In the past year, we have reached 2.25 million hectares of old growth deferred or protected since November 2021, with work on further deferrals underway with rights and title holders,” he said in a statement. “By taking action now and building generational change, we can protect the most at-risk old-growth forests around the province while we move to new ways to manage B.C. forests.”

Demonstrators in Victoria joined others across the province on Sept. 28 as they called for more protection of old-growth forests. (Jake Romphf/News Staff)

Elizabeth Borek waved to honking drivers and bus riders who pulled out their phones to video as traffic funnelled into the single-lane adjacent to the demonstration.

“We thought the fires and floods were bad this year, well wait until next year when all the old-growth forests that’s been either burned or chopped down starts emitting greenhouse gases. It’s going to be much worse for B.C. and the entire world,” Borek said.

“I just don’t understand why they can’t take action.”

She wants the government to implement the calls made in the Old Growth Strategic Review. The 2020 review’s final report includes a roadmap giving the government until the end of 2023 to complete and approve a plan to guide the implementation of all 14 recommendations.

Ralston said the government is committed to all the recommendations.

— with files from Bailey Seymour and Marc Kitteringham

READ: Old growth trees still falling despite B.C. promises: environmentalists

Jake Romphf

About the Author: Jake Romphf

In early 2021, I made the move from the Great Lakes to Greater Victoria with the aim of experiencing more of the country I report on.
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