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6 months after old growth report, Island’s Green MLAs rap NDP for lack of action

Forestry minister reiterates commitment to change, First Nations consultation
One lonely tree left behind with variously aged cut blocks visible over the mountainous range of Kwakiutl First Nation territory on North Vancouver Island. (Zoe Ducklow photo)

The Green Party of B.C. has been raising questions about old-growth logging in the legislature this week and last, challenging the government on its stated commitment to implement the 14 recommendations made by the old growth strategic review panel last year.

For three days, Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau argued that the NDP has missed the six-month deadline for immediate action to protect the highest risk old-growth forests, and has still not committed to a timeline on the project. On Wednesday, she and fellow Green MLA Adam Olsen read out submitted quotes from three Vancouver Island First Nations — Kwakiutl, Ma’amtagila, Nuchatlaht — who have old-growth concerns in their territory.

In response, the Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, Katrine Conroy repeatedly said that the government is committed to implementing the recommendations and to engaging with Indigenous leadership. She listed the nine old-growth forests where the government temporarily deferred logging in September — none in the territories of the nations quoted — and reminded the MLAs that one of the authors is a Tahltan First Nation member from northern B.C.

Dorothy Hunt, an elected councillor for the Kwakiutl First Nation near Port Hardy and Port McNeill said:

“The Kwakiutl First Nation is not opposed to logging, but we have had a ban on old-growth logging in our territory for over 10 years. Yet new logging approvals continue to move forward without meaningful consultation and consent.

“We asked this government for deferrals in all remaining old-growth in our territory more than five months ago, and yet we still see new old-growth logging being approved in our salmon-bearing watersheds.”

The report, A New Future for Old Forests, was commissioned by the government in 2019 and released to the public in Sept. 2020 with 14 recommendations that would overhaul how old-growth forests are managed in B.C.

Two of the key recommendations were to engage Indigenous leadership, and “defer development in old forests where ecosystems are at very high and near-term risk of irreversible biodiversity loss.”

In September, the government temporarily deferred logging in nine old-growth forests it considered high risk in B.C., including Clayoquot Sound, McKelvie Creek and H’Kusam on Vancouver Island. Conroy, who wasn’t minister at the time, said those deferrals were made in consultation with First Nations in the areas.

None of those areas are in Kwakiutl territory, and yesterday Furstenau criticized the protected old growth as “stubby sub-alpine trees” that are not the big, ancient forests the old-growth panel was referring to.

“You can’t consult about trees that are already cut,” Olsen critiqued.

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