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BC Government: Science to help drive old growth deferrals

Press Release

June 24, 2021

VICTORIA – The Government of British Columbia has brought together an independent Old Growth Technical Advisory Panel to support its next steps in its science-based approach to transforming old growth management.

“This new technical panel will ensure we’re using the best science and data available to identify at-risk old growth ecosystems and prioritize areas for deferral,” said Katrine Conroy, Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development. “We are committed to a science-based approach to old growth management, and our work with the advisory panel will help us break down barriers between the different interpretations of data that are out there.”

The five members of the Old Growth Technical Advisory Panel will build on initial technical work by government and others to provide maps, analysis and detailed information on the status of old growth forest ecosystems in B.C. This work will be critical to improving public information on old growth, consistent with Recommendation 5 from the Old Growth Strategic Review, and will help inform government-to-government decisions with First Nations on future deferral areas. Decisions on specific deferrals will continue to be made at a government-to-government level with First Nations rights and title holders.

The technical panel will also provide recommendations and advice on priority areas for development of deferrals that will aid in government-to-government engagement. This work addresses a priority recommendation of the independent strategic review panel on old growth – Recommendation 6 – to defer development in old forests where ecosystems are at very high and near-term risk of irreversible biodiversity loss, until a new strategy is implemented.

“I am hopeful that this step marks a movement towards increased transparency and towards the promised paradigm shift needed to maintain ecological resilience and biodiversity” said Karen Price, forest ecologist and Old Growth Technical Advisory Panel member.

In September 2020, government released the report of the Old Growth Strategic Review and committed to adopting all 14 of its recommendations. To date, 11 areas of old growth throughout B.C. have been deferred from harvest, most recently in the Fairy Creek watershed and central Walbran area.

“Old growth forests provide unique and critical habitats that preserve biodiversity, support clean watersheds and capture carbon crucial to reducing our province’s climate footprint,” said George Heyman, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy. “This panel’s work will be a key element in transforming forestry and conservation practices here in B.C. by drawing on science to ensure that the important range of old growth forest values are protected for generations to come.”

Government is also addressing the old growth panel’s high priority recommendation to consult with Indigenous peoples and has committed to continued consultations and work on further deferrals with First Nations rights and titleholders.

Learn More:

To view the Old Growth Technical Advisory Panel terms of reference, visit: https://news.gov.bc.ca/files/Old_Growth_Adv_%20Tech_Panel_TermsOfReference.pdf

Old growth forests and B.C.’s approach: www.gov.bc.ca/oldgrowth

B.C.’s latest old growth deferral areas: https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2021PREM0038-001122

Two backgrounders follow.

Contacts:

Ministry of Forests, Lands,
Natural Resource Operations
and Rural Development
Media Relations
250 213-8172

Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy
Media Relations
250 953-3834


BACKGROUNDER 1

B.C.’s actions on old growth

B.C. released “A New Future for Old Forests,” the report of the strategic review panel on old growth, in September 2020 and has begun to implement its 14 recommendations. Actions to date include:

As a first step, government engaged with the First Nations Leadership Council to discuss the report and begin work on the approach for Recommendation 1: “Engage the full involvement of Indigenous leaders and organizations to review this report and any subsequent policy or strategy development and implementation.”

In response to Recommendation 6: “Until a new strategy is implemented, defer development in old forests where ecosystems are at very high and near-term risk of irreversible biodiversity loss,” harvest has been deferred in 11 areas of old growth throughout B.C. The most recent deferrals include those in the Fairy Creek watershed and central Walbran area, initiated at the request of the Pacheedaht, Ditidaht and Huu-ay-aht First Nations. Work is ongoing to identify additional deferral areas throughout the province.

Recommendations 1 and 6, as outlined above, are underway as are Recommendation 5 regarding public information and Recommendation 7, which addresses compliance with existing requirements.

Key timelines for addressing the recommendations of the old growth independent panel report can be found online:
https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/farming-natural-resources-and-industry/forestry/stewardship/old-growth-forests/old_growth_path_forward.pdf

This work is leading to a new old growth strategy for British Columbia that is part of a paradigm shift for forest management in British Columbia. The old growth strategy is expected to be completed in 2023.

Learn More:

To see the old growth strategy, visit: www.gov.bc.ca/oldgrowth

Contacts:

Ministry of Forests, Lands,
Natural Resource Operations
and Rural Development
Media Relations
250 213-8172

Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy
Media Relations
250 953-3834


BACKGROUNDER 2

Members of the Old Growth Technical Advisory Panel

Garry Merkel

Merkel is a member of the Tahltan Nation in northwest British Columbia. He is a registered professional forester with over 45 years of experience in the field, management, academic, research and community aspects of forest and land management. He has also worked in many fields, some of which include organizational development, community development, business development and management, governance, community-based land management and education. Merkel was a member of the two-person independent panel that reviewed B.C.’s old growth strategy.

Rachel F. Holt (PhD)

Holt is an independent ecologist based in Nelson on the unceded territory of the Sinixt, Ktunaxa and Okanagan Nations’ peoples. She has worked on the ecology and management of old growth forest from many angles over the last 25 years, from defining indices of old growth in the field in the 1990s, to policy, planning and cumulative effects assessments for the Province of B.C. and First Nations in a wide variety of ecosystems. Holt was on the board of the Forest Practices Board for six years and vice-chair for two of those. Her goal is to bring transparency to the use of data and science in land management issues in B.C. Holt runs her own one-woman consulting company, Veridian Ecological: https://veridianecological.ca/

Lisa Matthaus

Matthaus is the provincial lead for Organizing for Change and based on the unceded territory of the Songhees, Esquimalt and W̱SÁNEĆ peoples. She has worked on B.C. forest policy and climate issues for 25 years, including key discussions that led to ecosystem-based management in the Great Bear Rainforest land use agreements and the negotiation of the initial Forest Stewardship Council standards for British Columbia. She has an M.Sc. in environmental and resource economics.

Karen Price (PhD)

Price is an independent ecologist based near Smithers B.C. on unceded Wet’suwet’en territory. Price has worked on old growth and land-use policy for 25 years, aiming to bring science and transparency to decisions. She focuses on how to maintain ecological resilience given cumulative effects of management and climate. Peer-reviewed publications address old growth species from epiphytic lichens to stream insects and birds, forest structure, ecosystem-based management and the status of B.C.’s old growth.

Dave Daust

Daust (M.Sc., RPF) is a landscape analyst based near Smithers on unceded Wet’suwet’en territory. Daust’s background includes harvest design, silviculture and ecosystem-based woodlot management. For three decades, he has designed approaches for assessing impacts of human activities on forest biodiversity and on focal species—including caribou, grizzly bears, goshawks, marten and salmon—for Indigenous and provincial governments. In the past decade, he has incorporated climate change into assessments and recommendations.

Contacts:

Ministry of Forests, Lands,
Natural Resource Operations
and Rural Development
Media Relations
250 213-8172

Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy
Media Relations
250 953-3834

Connect with the Province of B.C. at: news.gov.bc.ca/connect

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