BY BILL PHILLIPS
Just to remind Shirley Bond that she has already received 800 emails, she was given a large follow up letter Thursday.
The letter, and the emails, were from members and supporters of Conservation North, a group calling for preservation of old growth forests. About two dozen members of the group rallying in front of the Prince George-Valemount MLA’s office Thursday, to remind her of the emails.
“Old growth forests are in trouble province-wide,” Michelle Connolly, director of Conservation North. “We are a local group that wanted to bring attention to this here in Prince George.”
The rally was part of a province-wide day-of-action calling for the preservation of old growth forests.
“We’re concerned about natural, old growth forests, forests that get old naturally and do not experience landscaping replacing wildfires, for example,” she said. “We have forests like that to north (of Prince George), to the east, and farther to the east at the inland rainforest, which stretches south.”
She said large scale disturbances, such as clear-cut logging, are threatening the old growth forests.
Conservation North has been documenting, through photography and video, the harvesting of old growth spruce and cedar-hemlock forests for two years.
The Prince George-based organization has been pushing for legal protection of endangered old growth forests in the interior since 2017 and, through its Take Action campaign, more than 1,000 emails have been sent local MLAs and ministers. The group has an editable letter on its website where supporters can simply put in their name, email, and postal code and the letter automatically goes to your MLA, Premier John Horgan, Forests Minister Doug Donaldson, and Environment Minister George Heyman.
“We have a series of asks, one of which is for a comprehensive old growth forest protection act and a system of reserves that protects our old growth,” she said. “If you agree with it, you can add what you like. If you don’t agree with it, you can change it.”
Bond appreciated hearing from the group and personally accepted the letter.
“It is important to look at the practices we use in British Columbia,” she said. “But it’s also important to look at a balance. We’re seeing some significant challenges in the forest industry today, and that’s going to continue … Today is about understanding the views of my constituents and my job is to take their voices to Victoria and that includes a divergence of views.”
She said people are expressing their views on what the land base looks like in the future and Bond said that is an important discussion to have.
“I’m a believer in science-based decision making,” she said, adding she worked hard to protect the Ancient Forest east of the city. “We also need to recognize has 15 per cent of its land base is protected already … It is a matter of trying to find that important balance between an industry that impacts our region significantly, people are losing their jobs as we speak. But, again, people have strong and passionate views and my job is to listen to those views.”
Connolly, however, said protecting old growth forests is big part of restoring balance.
“We’re in a day and age that is completely out of balance,” Connolly said. “We’re in a climate emergency, we’re in a global extinction crisis … we’re losing species every day. So we’re living in a world that is profoundly out of balance. To correct that imbalance we need to protect some of that remaining nature.”
She said group is currently undertaking an analysis to determine how much old growth forest is actually left in the Prince George area. Even though some of the areas of old growth have been hit by mountain pine beetle and spruce bark beetle, Connolly said some of those areas should be left as is.
“When forests die from something like a beetle or a defoliator like the looper, it often has the same value for wildlife so those areas are worth protecting as well,” Connolly said. “There are gains to be made from protecting these areas and sometimes they have to value to log anyway.”