Additional logging deferrals expected this summer, says forestry minister

Published: June 2, 2021
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CBC British Columbia
June 2, 2021

Critics want to see action now

The province says there are 57 million hectares of forested land in B.C. (The Wilderness Committee)

Forestry Minister Katrine Conroy says she expects new logging deferrals to be announced this summer, following Tuesday’s announcement of a new forestry plan.

The province’s plan is intended to modernize the industry, focusing on sustainability and redistribution of forest tenures. 

Deferrals temporarily protect old growth, putting harvesting on hold in old forest ecosystems at the highest risk of permanent biodiversity loss. They can expire, and can be extended. 

The province says there are 57 million hectares of forested land in B.C., and there are currently 13.7 million hectares of old growth in British Columbia, 10 million of which are protected or considered not economical to harvest. 

Conroy said there is a policy in the new plan’s intentions paper that is a commitment to continue to defer logging old-growth forests. 

“We are continuing to engage with Indigenous leaders, we’re working with labour, with industry and environmental groups to look at where there is to identify the potential for additional deferral areas,” she told All Points West host Kathryn Marlow. 

“I expect we’ll be able to announce additional deferrals this summer.”

An ancient red cedar stump measuring four metres in diameter is shown in this file photo. (TJ Watt/Ancient Forest Alliance)

Critics of the plan have expressed concern that deferrals were not being made soon enough — that old-growth is being logged right now, and said these actions need to be taken immediately. 

“The reality is this crisis is precipitated by the government making promises to save the most at-risk old growth and then not doing anything,” Wilderness Committee campaign director Torrance Coste said in an interview on Tuesday. 

“We were expecting some acknowledgement of that and maybe a faster timeline or some immediate on-the-ground measures, some things that would actually make it different out in the forest tomorrow.”

Consulting with First Nations

Dallas Smith, president of the Nanwakolas Council in Campbell River, said First Nations have been concerned about logging old-growth trees for two decades, but recent protests in the Fairy Creek area have created more awareness. 

 “It’s unfortunate that it’s got to the point that it’s gotten to,” he said. 

A sign at the entrance to the Eden blockade in the Fairy Creek area near Port Renfrew, B.C., is shown on May, 11. (Jen Osborne/Canadian Press)

Smith hopes there will be more engagement between the provincial government and First Nations communities about the process of getting deferrals.

“We would love a chance to sit down with government, with the Ministry of Forests and have that discussion about all the tenures that exist within our territories, including B.C. timber sales, and just have a talk about how we fit within those licences that go there and start making some of that transition,” he said. 

“There’s no new tenures out there so we have to find a way of redistributing existing tenures while keeping the continuity of the economy going.”

He wants to find the balance between conservation and First Nations being able to benefit from forestry on their lands.

Conroy said those conversations will happen. 

From my perspective, that’s a key part of it, she said, adding that the new plans include ensuring that Indigenous nations are involved when it comes to land management.

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