For the third Friday in a row, concerned citizens united in Courtenay to send a message to government about conserving old growth forests, and reforming forestry management in B.C.
Dozens of people from the Comox Valley and Campbell River lined Cliffe Avenue and 17th Street Friday, March 19 during Forest March BC.
Comox Valley resident Jay Van Oostdam called out Premier John Horgan for not living up to an election promise to implement all 14 recommendations of the independent old growth panel report.
“He used our tax money to develop a very good old growth report. Now he’s ignoring it,” Van Oostdam said. “He’s going to see the extinction of old growth here on southern Vancouver Island in the next couple of years…Let’s see some real changes now. Preserve the old growth. We can talk about the kinds of sustainable forestry that we need here on Vancouver Island.”
“They’ve logged 95 per cent of the old growth,” said Bruce Martin, who participated in Friday’s event. “They suggest it should be shared with the logging community. I think it’s time to stop sharing.”
Gillian Anderson, spokesperson for the Comox Valley-Campbell River rally, said the panel recommended deferring development in old forests until a new strategy is implemented, but Forests Minister Katrine Conroy says to keep logging old growth while management plans are put in place.
“But the whole point of the panel’s recommendation to halt old growth logging was so there would be something left to protect under the new management plans,” Anderson said. “Minister Conroy’s much vaunted ‘deferment’ of logging in 353,000 hectares turned out to be under closer scrutiny only 3,800 hectares of actual at-risk old growth.”
Conroy said government understands people’s “deep emotional connection” to old growth forests, and the need to protect them. At the same time, she notes forestry plays an important role in B.C.’s economy.
“That’s why we are working hard to develop and put in place a new, comprehensive approach for how old growth forests are managed in our province,” she said in a statement. “We want to make sure people can appreciate old-growth trees for years to come, while supporting a sustainable forest sector for workers and communities.”
When they released the old growth report last September, Conroy said government took immediate action on four of the recommendations and committed to implementing all 14.
“Our commitment to this important work has not changed,” she said. “In September, we worked collaboratively with First Nations on a government-to-government basis and protected old growth in nine different areas that were at high-risk across B.C. This was an important step in acting on the top two recommendations from the old growth report.”
Courtenay-Comox MLA Ronna-Rae Leonard said government’s commitment is “unfaltering,” to put in place a balanced and enduring approach to old growth forest management that holds to commitments in the B.C. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act.
Some are calling for an immediate moratorium, but Conroy said this approach risks thousands of jobs. By the same token, others have called for no changes to logging practices, which could risk damage to key ecosystems.
“There is a better way for B.C. to manage old growth forests and our government will work collaboratively with all our partners to do this,” Conroy said.