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andrew.weaver.mla@leg.bc.ca

Question period in the legislature today was surreal. I left the chamber wondering whether I should quit politics altogether. I was absolutely appalled by the behaviour of official opposition and government members. It was shocking — truly shocking.

Personal attacks, vitriol, abuse, obnoxious heckling and utter disrespect was on display for all to see. This place needs to change. It needs a complete shake up.

That won’t happen, it seems, unless the general public rises up to vote out those politicians on both sides of the house who are more interested in hurling abuse than dealing with issues facing British Columbians. There was no excuse for the behaviour today. No excuse at all.

I was up on question period today and had planned to ask the relevant Minister two questions. The Minister was not at Question Period so I had to be nimble and ask a completely different question (see next post).

The question I had planned to ask is reproduced below. It was meant to coincide with an announcement on the need for widespread protection of old-growth forests on Vancouver Island.

We have lost over 90% of our biggest and most productive low-elevation old-growth forests. The government is continuing to allow the harvesting of our old-growth forests on Vancouver Island based on a plan created in the 1990s. It’s time to create a plan for this century.

The reality is, the government will say they are ‘protecting’ old-growth forests when in reality they have largely protected the steep, high mountain slopes or wet bogs. Yes it’s technically old-growth, but it’s the valley bottom, low-elevation, highly productive old-growth forests with the massive thousand-year-old trees that are at greatest risk.

In 2013 the UVic Environmental Law Centre proposed an “Old Growth Protection Act”. Part of this science-based plan was to immediately end old-growth logging in critically endangered forests and to quickly phase out old-growth logging where there is a high risk to biological diversity and ecosystem integrity. I believe the idea has merit.

Aside from ensuring habitat and biodiversity integrity, protecting our old-growth forests in British Columbia should be a part of our province’s climate plan. On Vancouver Island, apart from reducing our emissions, one of the most significant things we can do to for the climate is to leave our old-growth forests intact. It is also the responsible thing to do for our eco-tourism industry and follows the wishes of local communities across this island.

In April the Association of Vancouver Island Coastal Communities passed R11 – a resolution calling for increased protection of old-growth forests on Vancouver Island.

The Walbran Valley is the one of the most concerning productive old-growth forests but there are a number of old-growth areas that are or could be logged any day including: Nootka Island, East Creek, Edinburgh Grove, Tsitika Valley, Nahmint Valley, Southwest Nimpkish, Echo Valley, Maclaughlin Ridge, Horne Mountain, and the Cameron Valley Fire Break. In my view there is no compelling reason to justify the logging the last of our productive old-growth forests.

Background Facts

  • On Vancouver Island 90% of the biggest and most productive low-elevation old-growth forest has been removed
  • Only 13% of the land base on Vancouver Island is protected from logging, only 8% of the island’s productive forest ecosystems are protected, and just 3% of the valley-bottom rainforests are protected.
  • A recent report from the Wilderness Committee calls for a conservation plan for Vancouver Island’s rainforest where ½ of Vancouver Island’s rainforest is set aside
  • Old-Growth forests are substantially better carbon sinks than young forests. According to a new study in the journal Nature, a tree’s growth accelerates with age, enabling them to take up more carbon than younger trees.
  • In 2013 the University of Victoria’s Environmental Law Centre proposed an “Old Growth Protection Act” to ensure better protection for BC’s ancient forest heritage.
  • They called for a science-based plan that would have immediately ended old-growth logging in critically endangered forests and phased out old-growth logging where there is a “high risk to biological diversity and ecosystem integrity”.
  • Calvin Sandborn, legal director of the Uvic Environmental Law Centre, stated at the time that “there is a need for new legislation and planning that is based on science, governed by timelines, and plugs existing loopholes or inconsistencies.”
  • While there is an old-growth management strategy currently in place, it is heavily skewed towards protecting areas of low productivity (e.g. mountain tops and steep slopes)
  • The Association of Vancouver Island Coastal Communities 2016 R11 resolution stated the following:

“be it further resolved that AVICC send a letter to the provincial government—Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations—as well as relevant government organizations requesting that the Vancouver Island Land Use Plan be amended to protect all of Vancouver Island’s remaining old growth forest on provincial Crown land.”


Question


While I’m pleased with government’s announcement today that they’re going to protect 186,198 hectares of already-protected old growth forest on the mainland, on Vancouver Island, our old growth forests are in dire need of protection. The Wilderness Committee and Sierra Club have called what’s happening here an ecological emergency.

Putting this in context, over 90% of the grandest and most productive low-elevation old-growth forests on Vancouver Island have already been logged. Only about 3% of the original high productivity, valley bottom old-growth forests are protected in parks and Old Growth Management Areas on BC’s Southern Coast. Several species are also on the brink of disappearing and biodiversity is being affected.

The Walbran Valley is one of a rapidly dwindling number of contiguous prime ancient forests left on Southern Vancouver Island large enough to provide habitat for healthy populations of a number of endangered species. Yet a 486-hectare core area of the valley is unprotected — a portion of it is slated for logging right now.

Is the Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations open to implementing an alternative science-based forest management system for Vancouver Island’s remaining intact old-growth forest?


Supplemental Question


Old growth forests are not only fundamental to the ecological integrity of Vancouver Island, they are also a major eco-tourism draw and many island communities have recognized this.

For example, Chambers of commerce and city councils from Tofino to Victoria have passed motions opposing the continued old-growth logging in the Walbran Valley.

Two weeks ago the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities endorsed a motion calling on the government to amend the Vancouver Island Land Use Plan to protect all of Vancouver Island’s remaining old growth forest found on provincial Crown Land. This land use plan was created in the 1990s and logging of old-growth forest has continued for the last two decades.

Will the government recognize that a plan formed in the 1990s is no longer adequate for today, listen to wishes of local communities and amend the Vancouver Island Land Use Plan to protect all remaining old-growth forests on crown land?

2 Comments

  1. kelly barbin-Reply
    April 29, 2016 at 8:58 am

    Thank you for your continued strength and respect. Thank you for protecting our precious environment, we support you 100 percent!!
    I am perplexed and ashamed of our governments priorities.

  2. Mary Shoff-Reply
    April 28, 2016 at 5:00 pm

    Please leave the old growth trees intact! They help our environment! Why would anyone want to cut down 1000 year old trees? Please respect our planet. Thank you

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