B.C. cabinet order defers old-growth logging in Fairy Creek and Walbran in response to Indigenous declaration

Premier John Horgan says it's a positive day, but environmentalist Tzeporah Berman says it's still not good enough

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      Premier John Horgan didn't surprise anyone today when he told reporters that the province is honouring a request from the Pacheedaht, Ditidaht, and Huu-ay-aht First Nations. 

      In a declaration issued earlier this week, the three Indigenous groups demanded greater stewardship over their traditional lands. They include giant old-growth trees in the Fairy Creek and Walbran areas on southern Vancouver Island.

      As part of this request, the Pacheedaht, Ditidaht, and Huu-ay-aht First Nations sought a two-year moratorium on logging these areas.

      According to Horgan, more than 2,000 hectares of trees will not be logged when second-growth trees are included within those areas. That's about five times the size of Stanley Park in Vancouver.

      "This is a positive day, not just for the Pacheedaht, Huu-ay-aht, and the Ditidaht," Horgan said. "But it's a good day for British Columbia because we are embarking on the journey to transform forestry. This is in everyone's interest.

      He said that the government accepted all 14 recommendations last September in the Old Growth Strategic Review by professional foresters Al Gorley and Garry Merkel.

      "We said we were going to consult with title holders and defer more areas of the province," Horgan said.

      Premier John Horgan says his government is wrestling control over forestry from investors and turning it over to communities.

      Critics previously accused the province of allowing logging to continue despite a Gorley-Merkel recommendation to defer development if it would result in "the permanent loss of rare or unique ecosystem components contained in old and ancient forests".

      Horgan said those "majestic forests and the biodiversity that depends on it" will benefit from the announcement. He also mentioned that another beneficiary will be industry, which will have "certainty".

      "Of course, it's in the interest of communities because we're going to attach forests to communities, not to shareholders," the premier pledged.

      The licence holder, Teal-Jones Group, already stated that it will not oppose the two-year deferral of logging old-growth forests at Fairy Creek and in the Walbran.

      Berman says it's good, but not good enough

      This year, the RCMP has arrested 185 protesters for defying a B.C. Supreme Court injunction obtained by Teal-Jones Group. 

      Tzeporah Berman, international program director of Stand.earth, was one of those arrested.

      Over Twitter, she declared that it's "so exciting" to see that the heart of the Walbran and Fairy Creek won't be logged.

      She added a cautionary note. "But can you protect a beating heart and cut away the rest of the body?" Berman asked.

      She also noted over Twitter that today's announcement only impacted about one kilometre of more than five kilometres of approved road-building in old-growth forests in Fairy Creek.

      "And it does not stop any of the 40 hectares of old growth logging approved in the rainforest," Berman added. "It's good. But not good enough."

      B.C. Green Leader Sonia Furstenau said that her party is "encouraged to see the province has approved the deferral requests".

      “But while the B.C. NDP are celebrating this long overdue step, it is important to recognize that they are ignoring First Nations across B.C. who have been calling for deferrals and protection of old growth in their territories, in some cases for years," she added.

      “This government has a tendency to spin numbers and mislead British Columbians when it comes to protecting old growth. They have a long way to go to rebuild trust on this issue.”

      In his news conference today, Horgan acknowledged that "there are unique forests in the Interior that need protection as well".

      Meanwhile, Sierra Club B.C. tweeted that the Kwakiutl First Nation also wants a logging deferral on old-growth trees in its traditional territory.

      According to the environmental group, its request has not resulted in government action.