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Old-growth logging declines to record lows

Press Release

Nov. 2, 2022

VICTORIA – As the Province continues implementation of the Old Growth Strategic Review, the latest numbers released show old-growth logging in B.C. has decreased to the lowest level on record.

Logging of old growth has declined by 42%, from an estimated 65,500 hectares in 2015 to 38,300 hectares in 2021. The area logged in 2021 represents 0.3% of the estimated 11.1 million hectares of old growth in the province.

“Our vision for forestry is one where we better care for our most ancient and rarest forests, First Nations are full partners in sustainable forest management, and communities and workers benefit from secure, innovative jobs for generations to come,” said Katrine Conroy, Minister of Forests. “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.”

In November 2021, the Province released the findings of the independent Old Growth Technical Advisory Panel. The panel identified four million hectares of old forests most at risk of biodiversity loss.

In total, approximately 80% of the priority at-risk old growth identified by the panel is not threatened by logging because it is permanently protected, covered by recent deferrals and/or not economic to harvest. This is an area equal to 7,600 Stanley Parks and is as large as Vancouver Island. By contrast, 0.23% of the forests identified by the panel were logged in the past year.

“B.C.’s forests are part of our natural heritage, and British Columbians care deeply about them and the multitude of social, ecological, and cultural benefits they provide,” said Josie Osborne, Minister of Land, Water and Resource Stewardship. “Through the actions underway, we are making progress on developing an effective old-growth management system, one that prioritizes ecosystem health and community resiliency, so B.C.’s forests will continue to sustain our communities and ecosystems for generations to come.”

Logging deferrals are a temporary measure to prevent biodiversity loss while the Province, First Nations and other partners develop a new, long-term approach to forest management that prioritizes ecosystem health and community resiliency.

This approach will be based on the recommendations of the Old Growth Strategic Review and will recognize that a shift to prioritize ecosystem health is necessary to ensure B.C.’s forests continue to provide essential benefits, such as clean air, clean water, carbon storage, wildlife habitat, recreation and conservation of biodiversity – in addition to timber supply.

The prioritization of ecosystem health will be a central focus of the Province’s shift to Forest Landscape Planning and Land Use Planning processes that are being undertaken in partnership with First Nations and full engagement of local governments, stakeholders and the public. This will support the long-term implementation of old-growth management.

It will also provide clarity in the areas of forest that should be protected, the areas that may support some harvest under strict management conditions that prioritize ecosystem health, and the areas that can be accessed for sustainable timber management to support workers and communities. The result will be protection for more of B.C.’s most important forests and more certainty to support investment and jobs.

To support implementation of the Old Growth Strategic Review, the Province is working toward a new Old Growth Strategic Action Plan to be developed in partnership with First Nations and completed by the end of 2023.

Quote:

Garry Merkel, independent coach and mentor for Old Growth Strategic Review implementation –

“It was an honour to have an opportunity to engage with and hear from British Columbians directly about how they value old forests and how they believe they should be managed. The report recommendations now being implemented reflect the expanding recognition that First Nations have always made a significant contribution to stewardship, particularly in regard to our old-growth forests. This is the way forward to modernizing the management of old forests in British Columbia.”

Quick Facts:

  • Old growth is defined as trees more than 140 or 250 years old on the coast and more than 140 years old in the Interior, depending on the type of forest.
  • There are approximately 11.1 million hectares of old growth in B.C., which covers approximately 12% of the entire province and 20% of B.C.’s forested land base.

For a graphic showing how much of B.C. is forested Crown land, old-growth forests and old growth harvested last year: https://news.gov.bc.ca/files/Annual_Old_Growth_Logging_MAP.pdf

A backgrounder follows.

Contact:

Ministry of Forests
Media Relations
250 896-4320


BACKGROUNDER

B.C. moves forward with Old Growth Strategic Review

The Old Growth Strategic Review, entitled A New Future for Old Forests, was released in September 2020.

Commissioned by the Province, the intent of the review was to provide guidance on old-growth management and how economic, ecological and cultural values can be realized. It was based on four months of public engagement, including 200 meetings in 45 communities, 300 written submissions, 400 published articles and papers, 9,000 emails and 18,500 surveys.

The review made 14 recommendations and included a 36-month timeline to initiate implementation.

The review did not recommend a ban on all old-growth logging. Instead, it recommended deferring development in old forests where ecosystems are at very high and near-term risk of irreversible biodiversity loss (Recommendation 6) and adopting a three-zone forest management framework to guide planning and decision-making (Recommendation 3). The Province estimates that implementing a full, immediate ban on old-growth logging would – by permanently removing these areas from the Timber Harvesting Land Base – cause the annual allowable cut to decline by 29% and lead to 15,000 direct job losses.

The review also recognized the need for transitional supports to forestry workers and communities as they adapt to changes resulting from a new approach to managing old growth (Recommendation 14). Budget 2022 included $185 million over three years to provide co-ordinated and comprehensive supports for forestry workers, industry, communities and First Nations that may be affected by new restrictions on old-growth logging.

Government’s vision for forestry also includes shifting the sector from a focus on high-volume to high-value production, with more innovative wood products manufactured locally and more jobs created for every tree harvested.

BC Timber Sales is engaging with industry to redesign and improve its Category 2 value-added sales program that provides fibre access to value-added facilities.

Old-growth logging numbers (rounded figures)

2015: 65,500 hectares
2016: 55,600 hectares
2017: 51,900 hectares
2018: 52,300 hectares
2019: 39,400 hectares
2020: 39,400 hectares (revised estimate)
2021: 38,300 hectares (preliminary estimate)

For information, visit:
https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/industry/forestry/managing-our-forest-resources/old-growth-forests

Contact:

Ministry of Forests
Media Relations
250 896-4320

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

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