In September 2020, the Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, Doug Donaldson, released the report, BC’s Old Growth Forest: A Last Stand for Biodiversity, arising from the strategic review of old-growth forests conducted by Al Gorley and Gary Merkel. At the same time, Minister Donaldson announced a new approach to old forests via a news release.
Some of the initial actions the government is taking in formulating an old-growth strategy include:
- engaging the full involvement of Indigenous leaders and organizations to review the report and work with the Province on any subsequent policy or strategy development and implementation;
- deferring old forest harvesting in nine areas throughout the province totaling 352,739 hectares as a first step, and committing to engaging, initiating or continuing discussions with Indigenous leaders;
- beginning work to address information gaps, update inventory and improve public access to information, and bring management of old forests into compliance with existing provincial targets and guidelines; and
- involving industry, environmental groups, community-based organizations and local governments in discussions regarding the report recommendations and the future of old-growth forests in B.C., and the social, economic and environmental implications for communities.
The FMCBC has not done a full assessment of the Minister’s announcement or the Gorley-Merkel report at this time.
The FMCBC SW BC Recreation and Conservation Committee was initially pleased to hear about the two-year deferral of logging on 352,739 hectares, because it includes the Skagit-Silver Daisy area, also known as the “Donut Hole.” Multiple individuals and organizations are working to save the Donut Hole; the alliance includes Tom Perry, Ken Farquharson, the FMCBC, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (BC Chapter), the Outdoor Recreation Council of BC, Wilderness Committee, Sierra Club of BC, BC Wildlife Federation, BC Nature, and BC Federation of Drift Fishers.
Unfortunately, rather than satisfy or appease stakeholders, it appears the government’s old-growth announcement has generated considerable controversy. Significant old-growth forests such as the Central Walbran Valley or the Fairy Creek area of southern Vancouver Island are not included in the deferrals. And, the amount of old forests with large or very large trees being deferred for two years is only about 32,474 hectares or 9% of the total deferrals.
See the analysis from David Broadland, who explains what’s happening to BC’s forests. He pegs Forests Minister’s Doug Donaldson’s two-year logging deferrals of old-growth forest announcement as “Minister Donaldson’s sugar coating on a bitter pill” since almost all old-growth forests marked for deferral have little or no productive old growth on them—or were already protected (in fact, only 64,000 out of the 352,000 hectares of old-growth forest will be deferred from harvest).
Read the full analysis.