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Ancient Forest Alliance calls for science-based forest plan

Times Colonist - Judith Lavoie, April 13, 2013

*Note: The Green Party has adopted the key recommendations of the Environmental Law Clinic’s proposed Old-Growth Protection Act. It appears that the NDP support the scientific assessment component of the proposal, however they have not yet committed to the calls for protection and fully ending old-growth logging in endangered regions.

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Up-to-date science and legislation without massive loopholes is needed to protect B.C.’s remaining old-growth forests, says the University of Victoria’s Environmental Law Clinic.

The proposed Old-Growth Protection Act was produced by the clinic at the request of the Ancient Forest Alliance. The group’s executive director, Ken Wu, hopes it will spur the government to action.

“It’s time for a new, science-based plan,” he said.

An industry transition to second-growth trees is inevitable as the last unprotected old-growth stands are logged, Wu said.

“We simply want the B.C. government to ensure the transition is completed sooner, while these ancient forests still stand.”

The proposal, which is similar to a plan released Friday by the Green Party of B.C., is based on immediately stopping old-growth logging in critically endangered forests and phasing out old-growth logging where there’s a high risk to biodiversity and the ecosystem.

Major elements of the plan include appointing a science panel to carry out inventories and forest risk assessments, establishing different harvest rates for old-growth and second-growth, and legally designating old-growth reserves so there are consistent, enforceable rules.

Calvin Sandborn, the clinic’s legal director, said the plan is practical, science-based and politically doable.

“We wanted something that would fix the flaws in the current system, and the flaws are numerous,” he said.

Protection now offered by old-growth management areas is limited, Sandborn said.

Boundaries are adjusted to move protected areas away from valuable old-growth stands, logging is conducted under the guise of protecting forest health, small, stunted old-growth trees are protected, rather than big stands, and areas protected under forest rules can still be harvested by the oil and gas industry, Sandborn said.

If science and current mapping were used to establish which areas should be protected, much of the political heat would disappear, especially as protecting ancient trees produces more jobs over the long term than cutting them down, he said.

“These trees are our equivalent of the ancient cathedrals of Europe,” he said.

Forests Minister Steve Thomson could not be reached Friday.

NDP environment critic Rob Fleming said the proposed legislation “speaks to the urgency of the issue.”

“The idea of a science panel to assess the inventory of old growth on the Island is a good one, and I think it’s supportable,” he said. “It echoes an earlier call from the Forest Practices Board.”

The Green party is also calling for more science-based assessments and a provincial inventory of remaining old-growth forests.

“Given the scarcity of remaining productive old growth in much of our province, it is clear that we need to head in a new science-based direction to manage our forests,” said Green leader Jane Sterk.

The party also wants to see incentives for companies to retool mills so they can handle second-growth trees, and emergency protection for endangered ecosystems, such as the eastern Vancouver Island coastal Douglas fir zone.


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