More than 200 citizens, including Sooke, Port Renfrew, and West Shore Chambers of Commerce, First Nations, local governments and environmental groups, gathered in Victoria to request the provincial government draws up policies to protect the old-growth forests in B.C. (Contributed)

More than 200 citizens, including Sooke, Port Renfrew, and West Shore Chambers of Commerce, First Nations, local governments and environmental groups, gathered in Victoria to request the provincial government draws up policies to protect the old-growth forests in B.C. (Contributed)

Groups demand protection of Island’s old-growth forests

Policies needed to protect old-growth trees, says Ancient Forest Alliance

B.C.’s old-growth forests will not go down without a fight.

More than 200 people, including members of the Sooke, Port Renfrew, and West Shore chambers of commerce, First Nations, local governments and environmental groups, gathered in Victoria on Tuesday demanding the provincial government create policies to protect old-growth forests.

Old-growth forests play an important role for many reasons, including providing a home for endangered species, sustaining climate, attracting tourism, and is a large part of First Nations culture.

But 75 per cent of B.C.’s original old-growth forests have already been logged, and only eight per cent of Vancouver Island’s old-growth forests are in protected areas.

The Ancient Forest Alliance is seeking to have short and long-term policy changes implemented by the government.

The longer term policies would involve a law to protect forests, and annual funding that would allow the government to buy and protect lands of “high conservation, cultural or recreational value.”

For a more short-term solution, the alliance suggested implementing a policy that the B.C. government is almost finished developing called a Big Tree Protection Order, which would protect the biggest trees on the coast with buffer zones. They also believe the NDP should stop B.C. Timber Sales (the B.C. government’s logging agency) from cutting down any more old-growth areas.

The NDP’s 2017 election platform states: “we will modernize land-use planning to effectively and sustainable manage B.C.’s … forests and old growth. We will take an evidence-based scientific approach and use the ecosystem-based management of the Great Bear Rainforest as a model.”

“We’ve long agreed with these campaigners more needs to be done to protect the health of our vital forests, which for 16 years were left degraded by the B.C. Liberal government,” said Premier John Horgan in a statement.

“Doug Donaldson (minister of forests) met in October with the groups who held the rally Tuesday night. They shared with him a thoughtful and comprehensive analysis with what they see as the problem and offered some solutions.”

Horgan said the campaigners’ discussion paper is being analyzed by the ministry right now and they will have more to say about it once the study is complete.

If the NDP follows through with the statement, the remaining old-growth forests would be protected.

“I’m looking forward to the solutions he (Donaldson) brings forward,” Horgan said.

Ken Wu, executive director of the alliance, said Tuesday’s rally sent an unmistakable message to the NDP that B.C. citizens want to see a major change and improvement in the forestry industry.

“We look forward to seeing some concrete action in the coming months, especially during the February sitting of the legislature, where we expect the B.C. government to follow through on its 2017 election platform commitments,” Wu said.

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