Behind a makeshift coffin representing the ‘death of leadership’ in forest policy in B.C., a handful of speakers decried the loss of old growth forests at rally in Prince George Friday.
Close to 100 people attended the downtown rally dubbed ‘Rebellion for the Forests’ and organized by Conservation North.
“Old growth protection has crashed and burned,” said Michelle Connolly of Conservation North. “And it’s not a pretty sight.”
Six months ago, she said, Premier John Horgan made an election promised to enact the recommendations of the province’s old growth forest panel which called for deferring logging in all high risk old growth forests within six months.
“This has not happened,” she said. “Here, nothing has happened and we’re all wondering why.”
The province did release its old growth forest strategy, however, areas east of Prince George were not included for protection. Connolly said the public is continually fed misinformation that is designed to maintain the status quo.
“This misinformation comes from the upside-down world of powerful lobby groups like the Council of Forest Industries, the Forest Products Association of Canada and the companies they represent.”
Without naming them only referring to a company whose name starts with a C and ends with an R, Connolly was critical of Canfor for logging old growth forests.
“(The company) tripled in size in B.C. between 1980 and 2010 by reducing their number of employees by half over that time period,” she said. “The same company recorded $574 million in profits in 2020. The rate of logging in B.C. has stayed the same since 1990, according to StatsCan, while the number of jobs associated with the forest industry has declined. The number of jobs per tree cut continues to shrink.”
She said forest companies are subsidized to the tune of $365 million per year.
“What I want to know is why isn’t this money going towards communities to help us transition away from old growth logging,” she said. “The B.C. government has utterly failed to do what they said they would do.”
UNBC conservation scientist Dr. Pam Wright said northern B.C., particularly northeastern B.C., is dominated by a massive industrial footprint, but there is still a way forward. She pointed to the “spine of the Rockies” stretch of forests, which support seven red-listed and 30 blue-listed species, rich agricultural land, drinking water, and more.
“And yet that little critical habitat that remains is at risk of further fragmentation and destruction, it’s happening on a daily basis,” she said. “And while resource extraction jobs have definitely fuelled our economies, there’s a significant imbalance between the development and the need to maintain healthy lands and wildlife populations.”
Not helping, she said, is the government’s push for mega-projects like the Site C dam. In addition, continued approval of harvesting in old growth forests doesn’t help. She said there is hope because Indigenous leaders are pushing for change.
“I’d like to call on the B.C. government to immediately stop harvesting mature and old forests, today,” she said. “I want them to take action on endangered species and call on them to support consent of the leadership of Indigenous nations and taking bold conservation actions.”
UNBC scientist Dr. Art Fredeen said the region needs to be a ‘geography of hope’ and said old growth forests are not a renewable resource.