On August 21st, 2021, the federal Liberal Party made an election commitment to establish a $50 million BC Old Growth Nature Fund and develop a nature agreement with the province of British Columbia to protect more of BC’s old-growth forests and expand protected areas.
The Liberals’ $50 million pledge is part of the $2.3 billion allocated in this year’s federal budget to expand protected areas across Canada over the next five years, which, among other programs, includes $340 million for Indigenous Protected Areas and Guardians Programs and $377 million for the protection of endangered species habitats.
Two days later, while on the campaign trail, federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh pledged $500 million toward Indigenous-led stewardship programs to protect Canada’s lands, waters, and forests – including old-growth.
These funding commitments come at a critical time, as the last remnants of at-risk ancient forest continue to be liquidated across BC, British Columbians grow increasingly outraged by the lack of government action to protect at-risk forest ecosystems, and as police enforcement of Teal Jones’s injunction at the Fairy Creek blockades in Pacheedaht territory on Vancouver Island becomes increasingly violent.
For years, the AFA, the environmental community, scientists, First Nations leaders including the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, and the BC and federal Green Parties have been calling for significant funding to support First Nations-led old-growth conservation in BC, help communities and workers transition away from destructive old-growth logging, and create sustainable, conservation-based economies.
While it’s unknown at this stage how much of the NDP’s promised $500 million will go to protecting old-growth forests in BC, the Liberals’ $50 million commitment doesn’t go far enough.
But these funding pledges represent a start, which must be leveraged to access more federal funding from the incoming Canadian government, and must be matched – and exceeded – by the BC government, philanthropists, and the private sector to create approximately $600 million for old-growth protection.
Specifically, this funding must go to supporting:
- Immediate deferrals while alleviating short-term economic pressures faced by First Nations communities;
- Workers and communities to transition to a sustainable, value-added, second-growth forest industry;
- Sustainable economic development and diversification of First Nations communities;
- Long-term conservation solutions that prioritize the permanent protection of high productivity, carbon-rich forests that meet the Old Growth Strategic Review Panel’s and the Old Growth Technical Panel’s definition of “at-risk”.
The Ancient Forest Alliance is calling on the BC NDP to commit significant provincial funds in order to deliver on their promise to implement the Old Growth Panel’s 14 recommendations before it’s too late for remaining at-risk old-growth.
All eyes are on BC Premier John Horgan – especially now that the federal NDP is stepping up to the plate with potential funding – to see whether he’ll keep his old-growth promises or condemn BC’s remaining ancient forest ecosystems to the chainsaw.