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On November 2 the provincial government announced that it would be working in partnership with First Nations to defer the harvest of 2.6 million hectares of BC’s most at-risk old growth forests. Logging deferrals are viewed as a temporary measure – as recommended in the 2020 Old Growth Strategic Review – to allow for the development of a new approach to sustainable forest management that prioritizes ecosystem health.
Mapping of the deferral areas, now available online, has been shared with First Nations, who have been asked to indicate within the next 30 days whether or not they support the deferrals, require further engagement or would prefer to discuss deferrals in the context of existing treaties, agreements or other arrangements. The province has committed $12.69 million in capacity funding over the next three years to support this process. [Note: readers are encouraged to click on “visit the FTP” link under Old Growth Maps to access shapefiles for spatial data]
Once the deferral period ends, the province will work with First Nations to provide clarity on what areas will be protected forever, areas that may support some harvesting under specified conditions and areas that can be accessed for sustainable timber management.
In follow up to the announcement, Forests Minister Katrine Conroy held regional calls on November 8th with local governments. The Minister shared details of the announcement, listened to community comments and concerns and answered questions about the deferral process. Recognizing that old growth deferrals will have an impact on BC communities, the Minister committed to providing a suite of supports to help forest workers, communities and First Nations including short term employment opportunities, education and skills training as well as retirement bridging. The province has committed to further engagement with UBCM and local governments in the coming weeks and months as the deferral process unfolds.