The BC government announced harvest deferrals on 1.7 million hectares of timberland in the province. In November 2021, the Province announced it would engage with First Nations rights and titleholders to find agreement on deferring harvest of old growth forests. As recommended by the Old Growth Strategic Review, logging deferrals are a temporary measure to prevent irreversible biodiversity loss while the Province, First Nations and other partners develop a new, long-term approach to old growth management that prioritizes ecosystem health and community resiliency throughout B.C.
The B.C. Government is reporting that it has received responses from 188 out of the 204 First Nations in the province. Eleven First Nations have either no old growth or no commercial forestry in their territory. The province will continue to reach out to the five remaining First Nations that have not responded. To date, 75 First Nations have agreed to defer harvest of at-risk old growth in their territory while seven First Nations have indicated they are opposed to any deferrals proceeding in their territory. More than 60 First Nations have requested more time to decide, including time to incorporate local and Indigenous knowledge. The province says that it will continue to engage with these Nations.
As a result of these engagements, deferrals have been implemented on approximately 1.05 million hectares of B.C.’s most at-risk old growth, which are ancient, remnant, and priority large stands identified by the Old Growth Technical Advisory Panel. This includes areas where sales have been paused by BC Timber Sales while engagements with First Nations are ongoing. In total, more than 80% of the priority at-risk old growth identified by the advisory panel is currently not threatened by logging because they are already protected, covered by deferrals, or uneconomic to harvest.
In addition to biodiversity, many First Nations expressed interest in managing old growth on their territory in support of broader, related values such as wildlife habitat, cultural practices, clean water, healthy salmon populations, and species at risk. As a result of integrated land-use planning processes underway, deferrals have also been implemented on another 619,000 hectares of old growth forests.
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B.C., First Nations move forward with unprecedented old growth deferrals