As part of an international call for action, the voices of 185,000 people from around the world were heard Thursday at the B.C. Legislature, when a petition calling for the protection of B.C.’s old-growth forests was delivered to the government.
Together with representatives from tourism businesses and local government, Sierra Club BC and German environmental organization Rainforest Rescue called for an end to the ongoing clearcutting of Vancouver Island’s last endangered ancient rainforest.
“The ongoing destruction undermines the positive image of Canada internationally,” said Mathias Rittgerott, spokesperson with Rainforest Rescue. “Protecting rare old-growth forests is a crucial step in fighting global warming and saving habitat of endangered species. There is no price tag for the value of these forests.”
Sent to Premier John Horgan and Forest Minister Doug Donaldson, the petition calls on the provincial government to “impose an immediate moratorium on the logging of intact forests in hotspots such as the Central Walbran and other valuable areas on Vancouver Island and the mainland.”
Ministerial assistant Tim Renneberg accepted the petition on behalf of the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development.
Most of the concerned citizens who signed the petition are from Canada, the United States, Germany, France, Spain, Switzerland, Austria, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Italy, Belgium, Australia and Argentina.
Local political support for the call came from Sonia Furstenau, MLA for Cowichan Valley, Adam Olsen, MLA for Saanich North and the Islands and councillor-elect for the City of Victoria Laurel Collins who joined the group on the steps of the legislature.
“We can produce high quality, high value wood and good jobs while protecting watersheds and our climate with strong forest stewardship and improved forest management,” said Collins.
The ongoing harvesting of the globally rare, endangered old-growth rainforests worries Island tourism operators and experts as well, who say the destruction jeopardizes B.C.’s tourism economy.
“Opportunities to experience old-growth forests are increasingly rare in B.C. and particularly on Vancouver Island. Tourism businesses built around these experiences are sustainable year after year. The lack of consideration and foresight for other economic uses of these resources is a significant concern,” said Scott Benton of the Wilderness Tourism Association of BC.
“Tourists come to Vancouver Island to experience what is missing in so many other parts of the world: intact nature,” echoed Brian White, professor at Royal Roads University School of Tourism and Hospitality. “And yet what they find when they get here is big stumps, not big trees. We’re concerned about the impact on tourism businesses.”
The NDP’s 2017 election platform included a commitment to act for old-growth, promising to take “an evidence-based scientific approach and use the ecosystem-based management of the Great Bear Rainforest as a model.”
The group is asking the government to follow through on that promise.
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