Has Old Growth’s Biggest Rally Yet Spurred Government Action?

100 Days in, is Eby acting on old-growth forest protection?

160+ organizations are calling on BC to follow through on old-growth commitments

When you think of British Columbia, for decades, that has meant you think: huge trees, epic mountains, charismatic wildlife, and a stunning coastline filled with all three.

The truth is, very little old-growth forest remains in this province. Our new Premier is the latest in a long-line of leaders who says he wants to protect our old-growth forests.

“After decades of short-term and transactional thinking we’re making significant changes in our approach to forestry in this province.”

This is what David Eby been saying about recent policy changes that have been put through in the forest sector.

Some of the new implementations are undoubtably steps in the right direction.

In the last few weeks especially, headlines have been full of what looks like movements to put the forest first.

Eby’s government has extended old-growth logging deferals from 1.7M hectars to 2.1M.

BC working to create eight regional forest landscape planning tables in collaboration with 50 First Nations.

Government scrapping outdated clauses that prioroitize industry over wildlife and clean water. These are just a few examples.

Plus, they’re throwing money everywhere.

Million on millions are headed to forestry projects and programs to use low-value and residual fibre as an alternative to old-growth clear-cutting.

Eby has said this will not only support a “greener future” but also “support innovation in the forestry sector so our forests can deliver good, family-supporting jobs for generations to come.”

It sounds amazing, and millions of dollars and effort is not insignificant.

But all of this is conveniently being announced right before the biggest rally for our forests ever set to take place in BC.

It’s been supported by a coalition of over made up of more than 160 organizations across British Columbia have issued a declaration called United We Stand for Old-Growth Forests.

Tomorrow, they’ll be marching to call on governments to implement a fundamental shift in forest stewardship to safeguard the diversity of our natural world. 

Essentially, these groups are calling for recognition, and action on the fact that without healthy forests, we’ll have no industry – and we need to start putting protection first.

Sarah Korpan, legislative affairs specialist with Ecojustice, said that while recent announcements will make some difference, they’re not near enough to create a sustainable and thriving forest industry.

“The tweaks don’t really get to the heart of the issue, which is that our current forest management regime, especially the legal framework, was created for and by the industry,” she told the Tyee.

Essentially, don’t expect protestors to let up because of some politically favourable headlines.

As Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs put it – “We cannot stop putting pressure on our governments to do their jobs: to protect us and the environment, not act as timber barons whose only concern is this year’s financial statement.”

That being said, the changes are some positive movement that could get a real snowball rolling.

James Hobart, chief of the Spuzzum First Nation, told CBC News he feels ‘optimistic’ about Eby’s announcement to collaborate with 50 First Nations.

“In the past, we’ve been acknowledged but at the same time, there wasn’t that intent to engage,” he said. 

“Right now, I feel like, because they’ve opened the door, at least we have a way to hold them accountable. That’s where my optimism comes in.”

The key to being able to hold governments accountable of course though, is by looking past the headlines.

“So what I think really needs to happen is honest data, honest mapping and honest relaying of information to the B.C. [public],” he said.

“They deserve that.”

Part of the goal of the Feb 25th rally is to create a cultural expectation that government is there to disclose honest outcomes of their efforts, and be held accountable to to their promises.

This could go a long way towards creating a truly sustainable future for forests and industry alike.

Kukpi7 Judy Wilson, Secretary-Treasurer of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs summarized on why people will still be pushing for systemic changes, “Our future generations are dependent on the actions we take today, and we are at a critical point in time for direct action to protect forest ecosystems.”

Time will tell if this Premier will be different from all who came before him.