On Wednesday, February 15th, Premier David Eby and Minister of Forests, Bruce Ralston launched new measures to protect old growth and develop localized plans with First Nations to better care for BC’s forests.
“Our forests are foundational to BC,” said Premier Eby. “In collaboration with First Nations and industry, we are accelerating our actions to protect our oldest and rarest forests.”
“At the same time, we will support innovation in the forestry sector so our forests can deliver good, family-supporting jobs for generations to come.”
At the heart of these new measures is the Forest Landscape Planning (FLP) eight-point plan with $25 million behind it. Premier Eby insists the FLP will drive improved old-growth management while subsequently incorporating local knowledge and community priorities in BC’s forests.
First Nations across BC have been pressing for more in depth discussions and a place at the table in any conversation regarding old growth and now that has become a reality for approximately 50 First Nations.
The announcement also included commitments to government-funded forestry innovation by doubling the new BC Manufacturing Jobs Fund — which impacts forestry sector workers — to $180 million. This fund will help support mills who process smaller diameter trees and manufacture high quality timber.
“As we work to protect more old growth, we know we need to accelerate our efforts to build a stronger, more innovative forestry industry that better shares the benefits with workers and communities,” said Ralston. “Forestry is a foundation of BC’s economy.”
“That’s why we are doubling provincial investments to help mills retrofit to get off old-growth logs and manufacture more high-value wood products right here in BC, so we create more jobs from every tree.”
The Premier and Ministry of Forests have also committed to additional actions to aid in old growth protection such as implementing alternatives to clear-cutting, updating legislative wording to prioritize forests over timber, increasing and empowering Indigenous participation, placing more areas under protection and completing the Old Growth Strategic Action Plan by the end of 2023.
Sonia Furstenau, Leader of the BC Greens and MLA for Cowichan Valley applauded the announcement and released a statement of her own expressing the BC Green Party’s relief.
“After six years of our caucus pushing for these changes, I am relieved and grateful to see substantial and transformative changes to forestry in BC,” said Furstenau.
“It is important to recognize that these changes are the result of decades of tireless work by First Nations and environmental advocates.”
“The Premier’s decision to remove ‘unduly reducing the supply of timber’ from regulations is a game changer. This will allow the Chief Forester to consider other values on the land including biodiversity and water quality. “
“For too long we have put the value of timber above all other values. It’s finally time to reorient our approach to land management.”
“It is long overdue for the government to finally recognize that First Nations must have a seat at the table, and local communities’ voices and insights need to be incorporated into land use planning.”
In addition to the BC Greens supporting the BC NDP’s latest forestry move, the Ancient Forest Alliance also commends Premier Eby’s government on the new legislation.
Ancient Forest Alliance spokesperson and photographer, TJ Watt stated he was particularly pleased to see a specific clause removed in the update of terminology that has historically made conservation efforts difficult for himself as well as his comrades.
“Removing the ‘unduly restrict’ clause is as important a step symbolically as it is legally in helping facilitate the promised paradigm shift in the approach to old-growth forests and endangered ecosystems across the province,” said Watt.
“For far too long the protection of old-growth forests, wildlife habitat, and other critical ecosystem services has been secondary to the push to industrially extract resources from the land.”
“We commend the BC government for taking this first step and hope it continues to take action by removing any remaining policy caps on regulatory protection measures such as Old-Growth Management Areas, Wildlife Habitat Areas, etc.”