Victoria, BC – The Ancient Forest Alliance is disappointed the NDP government’s provincial budget, released yesterday, fails to allocate funding to protect endangered old-growth forests or enact the necessary paradigm shift in BC’s forest sector.
“The BC government has missed a critical opportunity to show British Columbians it’s serious about its old-growth commitments,” stated Ancient Forest Alliance campaigner Andrea Inness.
“Despite promising a complete paradigm shift in the way BC’s forests are managed, the NDP government’s 2021 budget is bereft of meaningful solutions to make it happen. In fact, the Ministry of Forests budget is being slashed by $41 million this year and a further $30 million in 2022.”
“How does the province expect to protect ancient forest ecosystems, support communities, and overhaul its forest management regime with less funding than it had before?”
The provincial budget comes six months after Premier Horgan committed to the full implementation of the 14 recommendations set out by the BC NDP-appointed Old Growth Strategic Review Panel, which submitted its final report one year ago. The recommendations include an immediate halt to logging in BC’s most at-risk old-growth forests within six months; a new, science-based approach to forest management that prioritizes biodiversity; and proactive, adequately funded local and provincial transition plans.
Since the panel’s report was released publicly in September, the BC government introduced a regulation to protect an estimated maximum of 1,500 of BC’s biggest trees and deferred logging in nine areas encompassing 353,000 hectares. However, only 3,800 of those hectares are previously unprotected, at-risk old-growth forest, leaving the majority of BC’s remaining productive old-growth forests open to logging.
While Budget 2021 does include increased funding for land-use planning modernization (an inadequate $7.3 million over three years), $180 million to support negotiations with First Nations communities, which ideally will include engagement on the Old Growth Panel recommendations, and $17 million to enact the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act (DRIPA), it’s missing critical funding pieces needed to fully implement the Old Growth Panel’s recommendations.
“The provincial budget lacks funding to relieve economic pressure faced by BC First Nations so that logging deferrals become an economically viable option for them,” stated Inness.
“There’s also no funding for new Indigenous Protected Areas that conserve old-growth forests, no conservation financing to support the economic diversification of First Nations communities while old-growth is protected, and no funding to help workers and communities transition away from old-growth logging. In terms of funding sustainable forestry solutions, this budget is as bleak as an old-growth clearcut.”
The Ancient Forest Alliance, other conservation groups, and hundreds of British Columbians sent feedback to the BC government’s Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services last year, calling for funding for old-growth protection in Budget 2021. That feedback was reflected in the Standing Committee’s final report, in which it recommended the BC government “fund a transition to second growth harvesting and away from primary forests” in Budget 2021.
An additional 4,200 messages were also sent in the weeks leading up to the budget announcement, illustrating British Columbians’ expectations that the province follow up its old-growth commitments with timely and adequate funding.
“The Standing Committee’s recommendation and British Columbians’ wishes seem to have fallen on deaf ears,” stated campaigner TJ Watt. “By failing to fund the Old Growth Panel’s recommendations, the NDP government will be severely limited in how far they can go to protect old-growth, setting the stage for more of BC’s endangered ancient forests to fall.”
“That the BC government also failed to fund old-growth protection and sustainable economic development in Clayoquot Sound is particularly disappointing, especially after the federal government in 2019 committed matching funds for the implementation of the Tla-o-qui-aht and Ahousaht land-use visions, which set the vast majority of those Nations’ territories in Clayoquot Sound aside from industrial development,” stated Watt.
“On Monday, the federal government committed $2.3 billion – in addition to the $1.3 billion it committed in 2018 – to protect one million square kilometers of Canada’s land and freshwater and to support Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas, Indigenous Guardians programs, provincial and territorial protected areas, and to protect species at risk.”
“The NDP government has a unique opportunity to obtain matching funds from the federal government. They’re missing a golden opportunity to support Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas while delivering the paradigm shift that was promised.”