Media Release: “Tall Trees Tourism Corridor” Chambers of Commerce join Conservationists, Forestry Workers and First Nations at Rally for Old-Growth Forest Protection and Sustainable Forestry Jobs
Ancient Forest Alliance, November 29, 2017
“Tall Trees Tourism Corridor” Chambers of Commerce join Conservationists, Forestry Workers and First Nations at Rally for Old-Growth Forest Protection and Sustainable Forestry Jobs
Representatives from the Port Renfrew, Sooke, and Westshore Chambers of Commerce, First Nations, local governments, and environmental groups spoke up at the Alix Goolden Hall in Victoria yesterday, calling on the new provincial government to enact policies to protect BC’s old-growth forests, ensure a sustainable, value-added, second-growth forest industry, and support First Nations land use plans and sustainable economic development.
Victoria, BC – A diverse chorus of business, labour, First Nations, and conservation groups began a mobilization last night in Victoria calling on the new BC government to protect the province’s endangered old-growth forests and ensure a sustainable, value-added, second-growth forest industry.
Speakers from the three chambers of commerce along the “Tall Trees Tourism Corridor” - the Sooke, Port Renfrew, and WestShore Chambers of Commerce - discussed the need to protect ancient forests due to the vital role they play in the province’s multi-billion dollar tourism industry. Businesses along the Highway 14 route from Victoria to Port Renfrew have benefited greatly from the flood of tourists from around the world who have been coming to visit the old-growth forests in the area in recent years, in particular the Avatar Grove, Walbran Valley, Big Lonely Doug (Canada’s 2nd largest Douglas-fir), Red Creek Fir (the world’s largest Douglas-fir), San Juan Spruce (Canada’s largest Sitka spruce until the top broke off in 2015), Harris Creek Spruce, and other old-growth forests around Port Renfrew.
“There is a reason we have branded Port Renfrew as the ‘Tall Trees Capital’ of Canada. Big tree tourism is a focal point and a staple of Port Renfrew's economy and growth. Old-growth forests are worth more to us standing," stated Karl Ablack, Vice President of the Port Renfrew Chamber of Commerce.
"Every year tourists from around the world come to visit our old growth forests. This increasing eco-tourism generates revenue for the entire region and directly supports local business as visitors pay for meals, accomodation, transportation, and entertainment to and from old growth hotspots. By taking action now to preserve our old-growth forests, these valuable natural assets will continue to benefit our community for generations to come and contribute directly to a thriving local economy," said Joshua Schmidt, Development Director at the WestShore Chamber of Commerce.
“The new NDP government, supported by the BC Greens, gives us the greatest opportunity in BC's history to finally end the decades-long ‘War in the Woods’ by protecting endangered old-growth forests and ensuring a sustainable, second-growth forest industry,” said Ken Wu, Executive Director of the Ancient Forest Alliance. “The NDP has sent some positive signals, but we need to see clear commitments and action. Large-scale old-growth logging is still underway in large parts of BC and, with less than 1% of the original, productive old-growth remaining in some ecosystem types, the BC government must act quickly to protect what remains.”
“We are excited to work constructively with this new government and hope to start seeing policy changes in the very near future,” said Andrea Inness, Ancient Forest Alliance campaigner. “In the province’s most significant old-growth ‘hot spots’, getting at least a temporary halt to logging is step one, so we’re not in a ‘talk and log’ situation where endangered old-growth forests are being logged while policy negotiations take place, limiting our options for protection.”
The Ancient Forest Alliance is asking for a series of policy changes that can be rolled out over both short- and longer-term timelines. This includes a comprehensive, science-based law to protect old-growth forests, partly modeled after the ecosystem-based management approach used in the Great Bear Rainforest, which protected 70% of all forests on BC’s north and central coast. It also includes financial support for sustainable economic development and diversification of First Nations communities, known as “conservation financing,” while supporting First Nations land use plans. While these longer-term solutions are being developed, an interim halt to logging in old-growth “hotspots” - areas of high conservation value - must be implemented to ensure the largest and best stands of remaining old-growth forests are kept intact while a larger plan is developed.
There are also a number of policies that can be readily implemented more quickly. For example, the BC government is currently finishing work on developing a Big Tree Protection Order as a policy option, which if implemented would protect the biggest trees on the coast with buffer zones. In addition, forest reserves such as many Old-Growth Management Areas that currently exist only on paper should be made legally binding, and the system should be quickly expanded to protect additional endangered old-growth forests. The NDP government should also direct BC Timber Sales (BCTS), the BC government’s logging agency, to discontinue issuance of old-growth cut blocks. Finally, annual funding needs to be directed to establish a park acquisition fund, which would allow the BC government to purchase and protect private lands of high conservation, cultural or recreational value.
“Last night’s gathering of concerned citizens and diverse sectors of society sends an unequivocal message to the NDP government that British Columbians want to see a major overhaul of BC’s unsustainable system of forestry,” said Ken Wu. “We look forward to seeing some concrete action in the coming months, especially during the February sitting of the legislature, where we expect the BC government to follow through on its 2017 election platform commitments.”
The NDP’s 2017 election platform states that “in partnership with First Nations and communities, we will modernize land-use planning to effectively and sustainably manage BC’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.” (see page 61 of their platform at: https://action.bcndp.ca/page/-/bcndp/docs/BC-NDP-Platform-2017.pdf). If taken literally and seriously, this would almost certainly result in the protection of the remaining old growth forest on BC’s southern coast and in the BC Interior, where old-growth forests are far scarcer and more endangered than in the Central and Northern Coast (Great Bear Rainforest) where 85% of the forests were set aside under the ecosystem-based management plan there.
Speakers at yesterday night’s event, where over 200 people attended, included Karl Ablack (Vice-President of the Port Renfrew Chamber of Commerce), Joshua Schmidt (Development Director of the WestShore Chamber of Commerce), Dr. Brian White (Spokesperson with the Sooke Chamber of Commerce), Arnold Bercov (President of the Public and Private Workers of Canada), Joe Martin (Tlaoquiaht canoe carver and Tribal Park advocate), Robert Morales (Chief Treaty Negotiator of the Hul’qumi’num Treaty Group), Jens Wieting (Campaigner with the Sierra Club of BC), Torrance Coste (Campaigner with the Wilderness Committee), TJ Watt (Campaigner and Photographer with the Ancient Forest Alliance), Andrea Inness (Campaigner with the Ancient Forest Alliance), and Ken Wu (Executive Director with the Ancient Forest Alliance).
More Background Information
Old-growth forests are vital to sustaining unique endangered species, climate stability, tourism, clean water, wild salmon, and the cultures of many First Nations. On BC’s southern coast, satellite photos show that at least 75% of the original, productive old-growth forests have been logged, including well over 90% of the valley bottoms where the largest trees grow. Only about 8% of Vancouver Island’s original, productive old-growth forests are protected in parks and Old-Growth Management Areas. Old-growth forests – with trees that can be 2000 years old - are a non-renewable resource under BC’s system of forestry, where second-growth forests are re-logged every 50 to 100 years, never to become old-growth again.
In recent times, the voices for old-growth protection have been quickly expanding, including numerous Chambers of Commerce, mayors and city councils, forestry unions, and conservation groups across BC who have been calling on the provincial government to expand protection for BC’s remaining old-growth forests.
BC’s premier business lobby, the BC Chamber of Commerce, representing 36,000 businesses, passed a resolution in May of 2016 calling on the province to expand protection for BC’s old-growth forests to support the economy, after a series of similar resolutions passed by the Port Renfrew, Sooke, and WestShore Chambers of Commerce. See: http://www.ancientforestalliance.org/news-item.php?ID=1010
Both the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM), representing the mayors, city and town councils, and regional districts across BC, and Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities (AVICC), representing Vancouver Island local governments, passed a resolution last year calling on the province to protect the Vancouver Island’s remaining old-growth forests by amending the 1994 land use plan. See: http://www.ancientforestalliance.org/news-item.php?ID=1057
The Private and Public Workers of Canada (PPWC), formerly the Pulp, Paper, and Woodworkers of Canada, representing thousands of sawmill and pulp mill workers across BC, passed a resolution earlier this year calling for an end to old-growth logging on Vancouver Island. See: http://ancientforestalliance.org/news-item.php?ID=1100
The Ahousaht First Nation north of Tofino in Clayoquot Sound also announced early this year that 82% of their territory will be off-limits to commercial logging. They now need provincial legislation and funding to help make their vision a reality. See: https://www.desmog.ca/2017/01/27/first-nation-just-banned-industrial-logging-and-mining-vancouver-island-territory
The Ancient Forest Alliance calling on the BC government to implement a comprehensive science-based plan to protect all of BC’s remaining endangered old-growth forests, and to also ensure a sustainable, value-added second-growth forest industry.
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