Today in budget estimates, I asked the Minister of FLNRORD a question about old-growth forest management.
Public information available on the government website is inconsistent. I asked if the government will accurately represent what type of old forest remains, and if they will show the difference between productive old forests that support large trees and the small trees that represent the vast majority of the total.
S. Furstenau: Thank you to the minister for the response to yesterday’s question. I just have one question I’m going to ask this morning, and will then hand things off to my colleague for Saanich North and the Islands.
The B.C. government still has a fact sheet on old growth, posted on their website, published in 2013 under the previous Liberal government. This fact sheet opens with: “Old-growth forests are not disappearing. There are more than 25 million hectares of old-growth forests in B.C.” On another website, government states that old-growth forests comprise about 23 percent of forested lands, or about 13.2 million hectares.
I’m concerned about the discrepancy between these two numbers and that the government continues to post misleading statistics on the state of old growth. Independent scientists, using government’s own data, found that 80 percent of the 13 million hectares is small trees.
Given this, my question to the minister is: will government change their communication around old growth to accurately represent what type of old forest actually remains and to show the difference between productive old forests that support large trees and the small trees that represent the vast majority of the total?
Hon. D. Donaldson: It’s important to note — and I believe the member had it in the preamble to her question — that we do use the definition of old growth, stated in the 1995 Biodiversity Guidebook. In general, that definition is trees 250 years or older on the coast, and 140 years and older in the Interior. Of course, there’s some further factors that refine the definition, based on the frequency of natural disturbances and ecological units, but that’s generally what we use.
As far as the findings of the independent science report and the numbers they use, the amount of hectares of old-growth forest — reported provincially to be at 13.2 million hectares — corresponds reasonably well with that generated by the forest analysis and inventory branch, at 13.7 million hectares.
We’ve committed to engagement on the independent panel report. I know that they were in receipt of the independent investigator scientists report. We are committed to taking action on updating the government’s old-growth strategy. We do recognize that better access to government data and information on old growth is needed. That’s been something that’s been repeated by users of the database and by those who have an interest in old-growth forest management in B.C.
So we’re going to have more to say as we do the analysis on the panel report. It’s all about building trust with the public, ensuring that we have biodiversity and ecosystems that reflect the diversity in B.C. and that are sustainable as well as protecting forest economies in rural communities for workers and jobs.