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  • Writer's pictureScience Alliance for Forestry Transformation

Dear Margaret Gibbs, Director of Provincial Stewardship Strategies

Thank you Margaret for responding and no worries about the delay since these are busy times, but time is of essence with respect to the biodiversity crisis in B.C.’s forests. I and others concerned about the remaining old growth forests commend the provincial government with moving the old growth protection file forward, however time delays and misleading numbers are undermining public confidence in achieving the Old Growth Technical Advisory Committee (OGTAC) recommendations that the provincial government committed too.

A case in point: Of the 2.4M ha, only 1.2M ha lies within the OGTAC's deferral recommendations. So less than half of the area recommended has been deferred. And, of that area, about half lies outside the Timber Harvesting Land-base (THLB), so they did not need to be deferred as it is not currently threatened by timber harvest. How important the rest of the 2.4M ha that were given deferred status remains unknown/ambiguous to the public. Likely, they’re either areas that are important to a First Nation—in which case they are important to defer because of biodiversity and/or cultural significance or they’re areas that are not likely to be logged in the near future—in which case they are not actual deferrals. The point is that the rest of the deferral areas remain at risk of irreversible biodiversity loss, particularly those in the THLB.

Current policy regarding old growth deferrals renders deferrals meaningless when a respective First Nation (FN) remains silent or does not endorse a deferral area. Non First Nation people seem to have no voice in this matter. With respect to the Cutting Permits within the Babine River watershed within Gitxsan Miluulak territory, acting chief Monica Jefferies endorsed the cutting permit CP714 and or CP712, so I find it strange that you report that “an agreement has not been reached on how to proceed with the proposed deferrals”. Proceeding was logging them!

Although you have stated that logging of old growth has declined by 38 percent, from an estimated 66,500 hectares in 2015 to an estimated 41,000 hectares in 2021, the fact remains that the total timber harvest in B.C. has declined, but the proportion of old growth harvest had actually increased, suggesting that it may be actually targeted within the cut. All harvest has declined, for various reasons including decreased market values and lack of timber supply, over the same time. The proportion of old growth harvested has not decreased, and has increased slightly (e.g., from 26% in 2017/18/19 to 29% in 2020; stats can doesn’t have total harvest for more recent years).

An analysis conducted by the Sierra Club of B.C. reported on Oct. 4, 2023 that their review of provincial logging data shows that the total area of old growth cut in 2021 was about 19 percent higher than what was reported by the province. This means annual old-growth logging increased in 2021 instead of falling to “record lows” as stated by the B.C. government. The annual total reviewed by Sierra Club BC shows 45,700 hectares of old-growth forests were cut in 2021.

You state that the area logged in 2021 represents 0.4 percent of the estimated 11.1 million hectares of old growth in the province. This equates to 44,400 ha. This is higher than the amount harvested each year in the two years leading up to deferrals. In other words, deferrals have made no difference in the old growth harvest level (or increased it).

Citing that approximately 81% of the priority at-risk old growth identified by the Old Growth Technical Advisory Panel is not threatened by logging because it is already protected, deferred, or not economical to harvest is misleading. The 2.6 million ha of priority deferral areas identified by the OGTAP excluded protected areas. Some of it is newly protected and some is newly deferred (the 1.2 million). The problem is that the 19% that is threatened is the part that needs deferring. These are likely the biggest-treed forests remaining.

One can only conclude that the “deferrals” have not been very successful in preventing the continued and irreversible loss of B.C.’s forest biodiversity.

Len Vanderstar

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