The Fairy Creek watershed is home to the last intact old growth forest in Southern Vancouver Island. It is the very definition of an ancient, high-risk ecosystem that the Old Growth Strategic Review Panel recommended be protected while a strategy is developed. No valleys like it remain on Southern Vancouver Island, they’ve all been logged.
A blockade has been established to prevent road building to undertake logging in this ancient forest. An injunction has been requested by forestry company Teal Jones to remove the blockades.
The BC NDP has a real opportunity to change the way things are done by providing real economic alternatives that include conservation financing & a buy-back of cut blocks. Instead, they have chosen the status-quo.
My question was for the Premier: is the NDP government OK with the logging of ancient forests being a part of their legacy? Or will they step up and come to the table with real economic alternatives to logging old growth and save Fairy Creek?
Premier Horgan didn’t answer. Instead, Minister Conroy made the same, generic statements she’s made for weeks. In her answers, she didn’t mention Fairy Creek once. This isn’t good enough – the NDP government must act to save Fairy Creek and all of BC’s ancient forests immediately.
S. Furstenau: Today the B.C. Supreme Court is hearing forest company Teal-Jones’s application for an injunction against the protesters at Fairy Creek. If the injunction is granted, we could see people arrested for attempting to stop preparations for logging in the last intact ancient forest valley on southern Vancouver Island.
This could take place, no less, in the Premier’s own riding, on the watch of an NDP government that has promised to do things differently on old growth, on the watch of a Premier who committed, during the recent snap election, to implement all of the old growth panel’s recommendations, including immediate deferrals in ancient forests just like this one. If Fairy Creek doesn’t qualify for immediate protections, I’m not sure what does.
My question is to every member of government, really, but I’ll direct my question to the Premier. Are the Premier and his caucus okay with this being their legacy, or will they step up and come to the table with real economic alternatives to logging old growth and provide a way forward to save Fairy Creek?
Hon. K. Conroy: I appreciate the question from the Leader of the Third Party.
B.C. forests are a big part of what makes our province so unique and so special. Our government knows that old-growth trees are an integral part of a healthy ecosystem. For many, many years, the former Liberal government took an unbalanced and unsustainable approach to managing our old-growth forests, and we are making different choices. Our government is bringing in a fundamental shift in forestry to protect and preserve old-growth forests for today and for years to come. We will do this while supporting forest workers and forest-dependent communities.
We received clear advice and clear recommendations from the independent panel on how we can do this. We are dedicated to implementing the 14 recommendations, and the work has already started. In fact, as a first step, we worked with Indigenous Nations in government-to-government discussions across the province to look at nine deferred areas where we deferred old-growth forests that are protected in those nine areas. We will continue to do more. We know that this is just a first step. There is much more to do, and we will do that.
Mr. Speaker: The Leader of the Third Party on a supplemental.
S. Furstenau: I’m actually astonished. My question was specifically about Fairy Creek. The Minister of Forests didn’t mention it once.
Just to be clear, this is the last intact old-growth valley south of Clayoquot Sound on Vancouver Island — the last one. So 30 years from now, we will have to look at our grandchildren and say: “Hey, we let it go because it didn’t matter. We didn’t value it, your future. Your ability to go into an intact old-growth forest didn’t matter enough.” Or we say: “This is the moment to make the decision. This is the time. This is the government that promised to do it, and they’re going to follow through on it.”
Making different choices, following the advice of the panel…. The advice of the panel was immediate deferrals on exactly this kind of watershed and ancient forest.
This government has an opportunity in front of them right now to show that they actually meant what they said when they made promises in a snap election that we didn’t need to have.
The question is to the Premier. Will his government rise to the moment of this important decision, halt the roadbuilding and preparation for logging in this intact rainforest and come to the table with financial alternatives for supports in order to provide an actual long-term solution to save this watershed?
Hon. K. Conroy: I, too, have a vision. I have a vision about our forest industry. I have a vision about the forests in this province, and I want to ensure that we have a sustained, well-managed forest industry.
I also have a vision, and the member should….
Hon. K. Conroy: Maybe the member would like to listen to it. My vision is…. I also have grandchildren. They are from the age of four to 20. If my grandchildren choose, I want them, when they are ready, to have the ability to work in a well-managed forestry, but I also want them to have the ability to be able to walk in an old-growth forest anywhere in this province. There is old-growth forest — 10,000 hectares of old-growth forest across this province which have not been logged and are protected and will not be logged.
The member is inaccurate in her numbers. She likes to put out numbers. I don’t know…. I would love to meet with her to talk to her and have a briefing on where she’s getting her numbers from, because they are inaccurate.
We are dedicated to implementing the recommendations from the old-growth forest report, and we will do that. We are also dedicated to working in government-to-government discussions with Indigenous Nations. We are doing just that with the Pacheedaht Nation. We are doing that with other nations across this province. Those are government-to-government discussions that are confidential and would be inappropriate for me to discuss in a public venue.
But we are committed. We are committed to continuing through this important work, having those discussions with Indigenous Nations, talking to the workers, talking to industry, talking to communities who are dependent. And we will continue to do that, because we want to ensure that there’s old-growth forest in this province for years to come.