University of Victoria Environmental Law Centre report calls for a minimum of thirty per cent old-growth protection across B.C.

VICTORIA—A new report prepared by the University of Victoria’s Environmental Law Centre (ELC) for Sierra Club BC calls for thirty per cent base level protection of old-growth ecosystems and intact forests across the province as part of the provincial government’s amendments to provincial forestry regulations.

The report entitled Applying Solutions from the Great Bear Rainforest Agreements to Vancouver Island, the South Coast, and Beyond recommends implementing the minimum level of protection that is used in the Great Bear Rainforest in all parts of B.C. The Great Bear Rainforest is the only major B.C. region with a land use framework that seeks to maintain ecological integrity as the basis for human well-being.

This is in stark comparison to weak current provincial forestry standards, which have led to an ecological emergency for many old-growth ecosystems across the remainder of the province. The report comes as the B.C. government is inviting input until July 15 to improve the Forest and Range Practices Act (FRPA).

“Increasing protection of old-growth and intact forest to a minimum of thirty per cent in every landscape across the province can be considered one of the most important steps the B.C. government should include in reformed forestry laws in 2020 to address the growing climate and biodiversity crisis,” said Keith Schille, the law student who wrote the ELC report.

“British Columbia’s forestry regulation is in dire need of reform, but we have one major region in the province with a conservation model based on modern science in the Great Bear Rainforest. B.C. should apply some of the learnings from this region in the rest of the province, alongside traditional ecological knowledge from Indigenous peoples,” said Erin Gray, one of the supervising lawyers on the ELC report.

“Many of B.C.’s old-growth forests are close to the brink. Time is running out and we need government leadership action that respects the limits of nature in the interest of future generations. This report describes a first step the province can take to address this emergency,” said Jens Wieting, Sierra Club BC’s senior forest and climate campaigner.

In addition to the base level protection, further conservation must be determined as part of the process of modernizing regional land use plans with Indigenous Nations on a government-to-government basis. These agreements should incorporate traditional ecological knowledge into all decision making processes.

Solutions that address Indigenous rights and interests are needed for both public and private lands, all of which are on the territories of Indigenous peoples. The B.C. government should partner with the federal government to enable Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas (IPCAs) and contribute to the international and national commitment to protect seventeen per cent of the land by 2020.

“From T’Sou-ke natural law, only together can we ensure a healthy environment for our children and our children not born yet,” said Chief Gordon Planes Hya-Quatcha of the T’Sou-ke First Nation, a member of the Indigenous Circle of Experts.

Sierra Club BC is calling for improved forest management to protect remaining intact rainforest, endangered ecosystems, Indigenous values and carbon stored in forests, combined with support for the forestry sector to phase out destructive logging practices. This will translate into more jobs and less ecosystem damage per cubic metre of wood.