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Conservation North upset old growth logging deferral plan avoids interior

Northern rainforest pile. Conservation North photo

Conservation North says the province’s plan to temporarily defer logging in select old growth forests falls short.

The province unveiled the plan Friday that includes the protection of nine areas throughout the province, totalling almost 353,000 hectares.

“None of the temporary area deferrals are in our endangered northern rainforests,” said Jenn Matthews of Conservation North. “In other words, they seem to have completely ignored the science.”

In July 2019, government appointed panel members Garry Merkel and Al Gorley to lead an old-growth strategic review. They gathered input and examined old-growth management from a variety of perspectives. On April 30, 2020, they submitted 14 recommendations to the province in their report.

Merkel and Gorley outline a four-phased process government should undertake to develop and implement an old-growth strategy. The strategy consists of immediate actions in the first six months, near-term actions over six to 12 months, mid-term actions over six to 18 months and long-term actions over 18 to 36 months.

Conservation North says that report and another scientific report  support the view that B.C.’s most endangered old growth forests (i.e. those with less than 10 per cent of their area covered in old forest) must be protected now to avoid irreversible damage and biodiversity collapse in this unique ecosystem

“BC has failed to meet a basic and straightforward recommendation by scientists and their own appointed panel, which is to stop harvesting the rarest old growth forests immediately,” said Conservation North’s Michelle Connolly.

Most of the areas identified for deferral are not at immediate (or in fact at any) risk at all.

“If the 350,000 ha around the rest of the province was actually protecting highly ‘at risk’ areas then we would not feel so bad about being excluded up here in the north. But that’s not the case ,” said Sean O’Rourke. “Not only did they ignore what the science says, but our at-risk old growth forests got a big goose egg.”

List of old-growth areas for immediate development deferral:

  1. Clayoquot Sound: 260,578 hectares. Renowned for its beauty and range of resource values, typical forests of the very wet Coastal Western Hemlock zone, with western hemlock, western red cedar, yellow cedar, balsam, berries, ferns and moss.
  2. Crystalline Creek: 9,595 hectares. A tributary of the south fork of the Spillimacheen River, an intact watershed with wetland complexes and old and mature forests.
  3. H’Kusam: 1,050 hectares. Prounounced kew-sum, this easily accessible area contains outstanding examples of culturally modified trees and intact stands of old-growth cedar.
  4. Incomappleux Valley: 40,194 hectares. Inland rainforest with intact riparian habitats, more than 250 lichen species, lowland forests and old-growth forests estimated to be between 800 and 1,500 years old.
  5. McKelvie Creek: 2,231 hectares. Intact valley of old-growth temperate rainforest and intact watershed providing rich wildlife and salmon habitat.
  6. Seven Sisters: 4,510 hectares. A complete elevation sequence of forested ecosystems, with a blend of coastal, interior and northern features, habitat for many red- and blue-listed wildlife species.
  7. Skagit-Silver Daisy: 5,745 hectares. Largely intact transition forest between coastal and interior types, with species representative of both, including sub-alpine fir, western and mountain hemlock, western red and yellow cedar and Douglas fir, home to wildlife including spotted owls.
  8. Stockdale Creek: 11,515 hectares. Old and mature forests in an intact watershed, an important wildlife corridor with high-value grizzly bear habitat.
  9. Upper Southgate River: 17,321 hectares. Coastal rainforest providing a rich habitat for wildlife and multiple species of salmon.

Conservation North says the areas deferred in the southern interior – Stockdale and Crystalline creeks – have both been ‘off-limits’ to harvest for about a decade and so are not at risk. In Clayoquot sound, most of the area identified is already off-limits as a result of the FSC certification there.

Despite being classified a ‘red zone’ for ecological risk by scientists, B.C.’s central interior was not included in the province’s limited selection of area deferrals. The group says local areas such as the Anzac Valley and the cedar/hemlock forests of the Upper Fraser River could easily have been included.

The panel report stresses that a transition to more responsible logging can improve local economies and be sustainable in the long-term. Conservation North agrees with this assessment and is pushing for a rapid transition to managing and harvesting already-converted landscapes and staying away from primary (old growth) forests.

“We need to look at the future of our community, not just the bottom line of forestry corporations,” said Matthews. “Once the old growth is gone, we will have to transition to using second-growth forests anyway, so why not make that transition now while some fraction of these important places are left?”

A COVID-aware rally will be held in Prince George on Friday, September 18th at 12:30 pm at Mr. PG (Hwy 97 and the Yellowhead highway) as part of the province-wide BC Forest March/Day of Action for Forests.

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