by Timothy Schafer Local Journalism Initiative Reporter on Tuesday Mar 21 2023
The Province of B.C. is ‘logging for extinction’ despite its claims to be reducing logging in old growth forests, claims a long-time Nelson activist.
Tom Prior said the provincial government recent contention that logging of old growth has declined by 42 per cent in B.C. — from an estimated 65,500 hectares in 2015 to 38,300 hectares in 2021 — is not quite as it seems.
A veteran of countless logging road blockades, court battles and public protests against logging of old growth forests since the 1980s, Prior said the statement was made to pacify “armchair” environmental organizations to win green votes in the upcoming provincial election.
“If they were managing our forests responsibly we would not have every ‘wide ranging’ species in the province endangered,” he said.
Prior noted that one year ago the province was maintaining it did not know how much old growth (OG) was left in the province.
“(N)ow, apparently, the B.C. NDP knows exactly where and how much ‘OG’ is remaining,” he pointed out.
The area logged in 2021 in B.C. represents 0.3 per cent of the estimated 11.1 million hectares of old growth in the province, according to the Ministry of Forests.
In November 2021, the Province released the findings of the independent Old Growth Technical Advisory Panel, identifying four million hectares of old forests most at risk of biodiversity loss — 80 per cent of which is not threatened by logging because it is permanently protected, covered by recent deferrals or is not economic to harvest.
“The latest numbers show that B.C. is on the right track as we work to develop and implement new long-term solutions for better managing, preserving and sharing the benefits of our forests,” said Katrine Conroy, Minister of Forests and MLA for Kootenay West.
Old growth is currently defined as trees more than 250 years old on the coast, and more than 140 years or 250 years old in the Interior, depending on the type of forest.
Taking a stand
The recent Incomappleux Valley protection was simply brilliant politics, said Prior, referring to the Jan. 26 announcement by the province to create the conservancy.
The Incomappleux Conservancy spans more than 58,000 hectares and is part of B.C.’s rare inland temperate rainforest where some old-growth cedar and hemlock trees are estimated to be four metres (13 feet) in diameter and more than 1,000 years old.
“It would have been a huge cost to build a new road and bridge into that valley that has been 60 to 80 per cent clear cut already,” Prior said, adding that it was an empty gesture.
There are other areas that need to have the Province step up and protect, he pointed out. Frisbee Creek in the Trout Lake region is an area that burned many years ago but its upper reaches could contain older cedar trees around 800 to 1,200 years old, he said, and the usual stakes are at play: important Mountain Caribou, wolverine, grizzly and other endangered species habitat.
Prior intends to bring the plight of the ancient forest to light this summer.
“We need to film and document in Frisbee before logging destruction begins to chase these species from the area. They are all shy creatures towards overt human encroachment,” he said.
People can get a sense of the area by watching the film Prior made called Big Mouth Creek campaign on www.bcfd.ca to help stop old growth logging in Argonaut Creek.