UNITED for Old Growth Forests!

Declaration, march and super-rally February 25, 2023

Sierra Club of BC, Stand.earth, Wilderness Committee, and Elders for Ancient Trees

Grandma Tree

Grandma Tree | Photo credit ©Bill Johnston

September 2022 marked the 2nd anniversary of the British Columbia government’s release of the report of its Old Growth Strategic Review (OGSR) panel, “A New Future for Old Forests.” The report recommended immediate action to stop logging of the most at-risk old growth forests in BC. It called for a major shift in BC forestry practices, namely to “Declare conservation of ecosystem health and biodiversity of British Columbia’s forests as an overarching priority and enact legislation that legally establishes this priority for all sectors.” It called for the full involvement of First Nations communities, the inherent rights and title holders of this land. It called for public reporting that is “vetted, trustworthy, accurate and shared,” and included a three-year framework.

In light of overwhelming support for old growth forest protection, the Horgan government made clear 2020 election promises to implement all 14 recommendations of the OGSR report. However, two years later, the NDP’s response has been poor. Our main critiques are as follows:

  • Without on-the-ground measures, the talk-and-log status quo continues, and thousands of hectares of at-risk forests continue to be logged across the province. More than three million hectares of at-risk forest remain vulnerable to logging, and ancient giants are felled daily.
  • The government earned a record $1.8 billion in stumpage fees in 2021, but has not provided sufficient funding to First Nations to support immediate deferrals, long term solutions, and their transition to sustainable second growth forestry.
  • Despite only one year remaining on the OGSR framework, the government has not established an implementation plan with clear measurable objectives, timelines, accountability, and steps for well-resourced enforcement and evaluation. Limited reports to the public continue to be variable, biased, and often inaccurate.
  • While we are in a Code Red global climate crisis, this is a dangerous failure. Healthy forests are essential to maintaining safe, sustainable communities, critical water ecosystems, biodiversity, salmon habitat and so much more. With more extreme weather, wildfires and flooding, the failure to protect vital forest ecosystems is already life-threatening and has decimated some communities in BC.
  • Since the release of the OGSR, well over 1,100 people have been arrested while peacefully defending old growth forests in multiple parts of BC, demonstrating the widespread frustration with the NDP government and its failure to keep its promises on this vital issue.

Urgently needed is a just transition for Indigenous nations and forest-dependent communities that protects these carbon-rich ancient forests and their critical role in ensuring a livable future for all.

Today, and every day, we, the undersigned, stand together in an unprecedented show of unity amongst working people, Indigenous land stewards and knowledge-keepers, activists, scientists, youth, educators, communities, celebrities, environmental and social justice groups, faith organizations, and more. Standing united against the destruction of old growth forests. Standing strong for future generations.

Our coalition is bringing a broad-based mass mobilization to the BC Legislature on February 25, 2023 that reflects the majority of public will in BC for progressive solutions to the crisis in the woods. Based on the Union of BC Indian Chiefs Resolution 2022-32, and supported by independent reporting, the scientific data on old growth, and the urgency of the climate crisis, we demand that the BC NDP government:

  • Immediately halt logging in at-risk old growth forests and additional areas suggested by First Nations
  • Provide fulsome and immediate financial support for First Nations to implement logging deferrals and resilience planning on their unceded territories, including Indigenous conservation strategies and compensation for any lost revenues and employment as a result of deferrals
  • Pursue full protection as the goal for all deferral areas, and invest to make protection the best economic option
  • Fulfill its election promise to implement all 14 recommendations of the OGSR panel by September 2023, within the three-year timeline which government promised, including biodiversity legislation for all sectors, and provide regular progress reports
  • Urgently move toward the paradigm shift and resilience planning outlined in the OGSR recommendations, prioritizing ecosystem integrity and biodiversity as the highest priority of forest management and as essential in the climate crisis
  • Implement a just transition for all communities while moving toward a sustainable, second-growth forestry
  • Provide: regular and detailed updates on deferrals and long-term solutions to safeguard and restore at-risk old growth; communications on all forest stewardship related decision-making; and reports on timelines and progress to ensure transparency and accountability for all OGSR recommendations
  • Ensure forestry-related decisions are fully compliant with free, prior, and informed consent and uphold the Title and Rights of First Nations pursuant to the government’s responsibilities under the UN
  • Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
  • Acknowledge the role of intact forests and sustainable forest practices in both limiting and mitigating climate change, and incorporate increased conservation targets into the CleanBC climate plan.

Initial signatories:
Union of BC Indian Chiefs
Elders for Ancient Trees
Sierra Club BC
Wilderness Committee

Over 120 additional signatories (to date), from the Anglican Diocese of New Westminster to the Workers Solidarity Network. See all signatures and add your organization here.

Organized by: Sierra Club of BC, Stand.earth, Wilderness Committee, and Elders for Ancient Trees

All Out for Old Growth rally details

Photo: Lonely Doug | credit ©Bill Johnston


Watershed Sentinel Original Content

Can we ask for a little of your time, and some money?

We can’t do this without you. Support independent media and donate a little or a lot – every bit makes a difference. And when you give those precious extra dollars, we treat them as the honour it is and use them carefully to pay for more stories, more distribution of information, and bonus copies to colleges and libraries. Donate $50 or more, and we will publicly thank you in our magazine. And we always thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

Related Stories