The British Columbia government, working with First Nations, has deferred logging across more than 1 million hectares of old-growth forests at risk of permanent loss, an area greater than 4,100 Stanley Parks.
A further 619,000 hectares of old-growth have been deferred at the request of First Nations in order to protect wildlife habitat, at-risk species, healthy salmon populations, and cultural practices, said Forests Minister Katrine Conroy.
Over 80 percent of old-growth forests identified as being at risk of irreversible loss are not currently threatened by logging, either because they were deferred, they were already set aside, or they’re not economically viable to harvest, according to Conroy.
The government announced last fall that an expert panel had mapped 2.6 million hectares of unprotected old-growth forests at risk, and asked 204 First Nations to decide whether they supported the temporary deferral of logging.
Conroy said the province has now heard from 188 First Nations, of which 75 have agreed to the deferrals that will initially last two years, while over 60 have asked for more time to decide and incorporate indigenous knowledge into the plans.
The Forests Ministry said in a statement seven nations didn’t support the deferral plans, while 11 nations either have no old-growth or no commercial forestry activities. Five nations had yet to reply to the request for a decision, it said.
The Wilderness Committee, an environmental organization, said the 1.05 million hectares of new deferrals amount to 40 percent of the 2.6 million hectares identified as seriously at risk, leaving 1.55 million unprotected.
“Logging companies are still targeting and cutting down ecologically threatened old-growth forests across B.C., despite the deferrals that have been completed,” national campaign director Torrance Coste said in a statement. “Many of these irreplaceable forests can only be protected on one timeline — right away.”
Conroy said 780,000 hectares of the at-risk old-growth forests that remain open to logging would “never be harvested” because it would be too costly.