Nearly one year ago, the NDP government received the report from the Old Growth Strategic Review panel. In the months since receiving the panel’s recommendations for urgent and immediate action, the NDP government continues the same status quo ‘talk and log’ that we’ve seen in this province for years. Old-growth forests – rare and essential ecosystems for their extensive biodiversity – are being logged right now. The NDP government promised real action on protecting old-growth.
In question period, I asked the Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations, now months into her tenure, where is the action that was promised to protect our most endangered old-growth forests?
S. Furstenau: Today marks six months since the NDP government released the old growth strategic review panel report — although, to be clear, this government has had the report nearly a year. They received it in April 2020, but chose not to share it with the public until September. The report called for a paradigm shift in our approach to forestry in British Columbia, especially our ongoing gross mismanagement of old growth.
One of the key recommendations is to immediately defer logging of the most at-risk old growth to prevent loss of rare ecosystems. The report specified that this must happen within six months. Here we are, and this government still has not taken any meaningful action to protect these forests. Instead, we are losing critical old-growth stands, as the old strategy of talk and log continues.
My question, hon. Speaker, is to the Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations. It has now been six months since government released this report, and many months into her tenure as minister. Where is the action that was promised to protect our most endangered old-growth forests?
Hon. K. Conroy: I thank the Leader of the Third Party for this question. It’s important to remember that for too long, there has been a divisive and patchwork approach to how old-growth forests are managed in our province. Those who are calling for a return to the status quo are putting B.C.’s majestic old growth and vital biodiversity at risk, and those who are calling for an immediate moratorium are ignoring the needs of thousands of workers and families in forest-dependent communities right across our province.
We want old-growth forests to be appreciated by people today and in the years to come. It’s also a priority for our government to support good jobs for people in B.C.’s forestry sector. That’s why our government asked the independent panel to advise us on how we can do better when it comes to protecting our old-growth forests. Our government is dedicated to implementing the recommendations to ensure new, holistic approaches to how we manage B.C.’s old-growth forests.
Mr. Speaker: The Leader of the Third Party on a supplemental.
S. Furstenau: Let’s just go through that answer a little bit. A divisive and patchwork response is actually resulting in particularly divisive and patchwork old-growth forests that are left in this province and which are diminishing by the day. The minister talks about an immediate moratorium, which is not what the panel recommended. They recommended six months of work with a deadline for deferral, and when the minister said she asked the panel to advise, that is exactly what they’ve done.
What I pointed out in my question, hon. Speaker, is that the government has not responded to that advice that was given — and that promise that was made by the Premier during the September election campaign — that all recommendations of that panel’s report would be followed by this government.
A necessary first step is the immediate interim protection across B.C. to create some breathing room and protect what we have left.
My question, again, is to the Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations. We can’t afford years of delay on this anymore. When will she fulfil the promise that was made to implement the old-growth panel recommendations, beginning with immediate interim protections in our high-risk, old-growth forest?
Hon. K. Conroy: I’d like to correct some inaccuracies from the member. We have taken some important first steps when it comes to taking action to protect old growth and implement the recommendations from the report.
The independent panel recommended we involve Indigenous governments and organizations within the first six months of releasing the report. We have done that and continue to engage with Indigenous governments and organizations on this.
The panel also recommended we take immediate action to protect ecosystems at very high risk. We have also done that. For example, over 170,000 hectares of old growth in the Clayoquot Sound. About 1,000 hectares of old growth in Stockdale Creek. Almost 10,000 hectares in upper Southgate River. This coastal rainforest is home to wildlife and multiple species of salmon. And that is just to name a few.
We’ve also initiated action on two other recommendations aimed at improving public information and compliance. And while we have taken these important first steps, as recommended by the panel, within six months, we know there is much more work to do. We are dedicated to continuing in this important work with government-to-government discussions with Indigenous leaders, talking to our partners in labour, industry, environmental organizations and communities.
We have taken those first initial steps. There is more to do, and we are committed to following the recommendations of the old-growth report.