High elevation old growth forest in the Babine Mountains near Smithers. Photo: Al Gorley from A New Future for Old Forests

Province’s response to old growth forest report falls short, says Nelson scientist

Rachel Holt says province is saving areas that don’t need protection, ignoring those that do

Nelson scientist Rachel Holt says the forest ministry’s recently announced two-year shutdown of old growth logging is mostly in areas that were already protected, had already been logged or were not slated for logging at all.

“I am baffled by that,” she says.

On Sept. 11, forest minister Doug Donaldson stated that the province was putting the brakes on logging in 350,000 hectares of old growth in nine specific areas of the province.

But the ministry’s choice of deferred areas has left Holt scratching her head.

She says only 10,000 hectares of the deferrals are old growth forests that are actually at risk.

Asked to respond, the forest ministry told the Star it is unable to comment during an election.

Donaldson’s announcement accompanied the release of the province’s report on old growth, A New Future for Old Forests, written by the two-person panel of Garry Merkel and Al Gorley after months of consultation around the province.

While Merkel and Gorley were writing their report, Holt, along with two other scientists, wrote an independent analysis of the old growth situation in the province and submitted it to them, arguing that the province has been misleading the public for years by over-counting the amount of old growth forest that actually exists.

Now that Gorley and Merkel have released their report, Holt thinks they mostly got it right but that the province’s first step in implementation is wrong.

A New Future for Old Forests states that the province has not managed old growth forests well for decades and that it has been working “under an outdated paradigm.”

It states that ecosystem health and biodiversity must become a priority.

One of the report’s dozen recommendations asks that until the province brings in a new management system, it should “defer development in old forests where ecosystems are at very high and near-term risk of irreversible biodiversity loss.”

In response, last week the province halted logging in 350,000 hectares in specific areas of the province. But the choice of deferred areas is all wrong, Holt says.

The nine areas include the Seven Sisters region near Smithers, the Incomappleaux Valley, Crystalline Creek and Stockdale Creek watersheds in the East Kootenay, the Upper Southgate River that drains to Bute Inlet on the south coast, Skagit-Silverdaisy near the U.S. border and H’Kusam, McKelvie Creek and Clayoquot Sound on Vancouver Island.

Related:

B.C. suspends some old-growth logging, consults communities

Province ignoring need to preserve old growth forests, says Nelson scientist



bill.metcalfe@nelsonstar.com

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