A British Columbia Supreme Court decision undermines government claims that B.C.’s forestry laws are among the strongest in the world, environment groups said Friday, after losing a court battle to protect the province’s last old-growth Coastal Douglas-fir forests. In a case brought by two nonprofits, the Western Canada Wilderness Committee and the ForestEthics Solutions Society, the court ruled Friday that the B.C. government is not obligated by the Forest and Range Practices Act, FRPA, to protect the province’s remaining endangered old-growth Coastal Douglas-fir ecosystems or any other species at risk.
“The court has confirmed what conservationists have been saying for years, that the Forest and Range Practices Act doesn’t protect species at risk in any meaningful way,” said Torrance Coste, Vancouver Island Campaigner for the Wilderness Committee.
Coste said, “The B.C. government likes to say that it has strong laws and sustainable forest practices, but the court’s ruling has just exposed those claims as a sham.”
Currently, 87 percent of species at risk in B.C. receive no protection of any kind under provincial or federal laws. “The court’s ruling indicates that we cannot rely on existing laws like FRPA to protect species at risk,” said Morgan Blakley, staff lawyer at Ecojustice, a public interest law firm that represented the petitioning groups in this case.
“It’s time for B.C. to introduce a standalone endangered species law to ensure our forests aren’t logged to extinction and iconic species like the mountain caribou and spotted owl are able to recover.” According to government data and evidence introduced in court, currently only 2.75 square kilometres, an area smaller than Vancouver’s Stanley Park, remains in old-growth condition.
“This judgement on Coastal Douglas-fir confirms the deep systemic problems in B.C.’s forest management and shows that it is anything but sustainable,” said Valerie Langer, Conservation Director for ForestEthics Solutions. “Gone is any credibility with eco-minded companies that have been purchasing B.C. timber because of its ‘sustainability,’” Langer said.
In other British Columbia forest news, environmental groups Wednesday rejected the B.C. government’s proposal for forest tenure change that would increase the amount of land under the control of logging companies in the form of Tree Farm Licences.
The Ancient Forest Alliance, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society BC, Canopy, ForestEthics Solutions, Greenpeace, Sierra Club BC, Wildsight and West Coast Environmental Law Association are calling on British Columbians to visit the government’s consultation website to reject the “tenure rollover proposal” and instead demand “a coherent action plan to restore the province’s badly damaged forests.”
“The proposed change would give companies exclusive logging rights over vast areas of forest land without meaningfully addressing the poor state of B.C’.s forests, the need for improved forest practices and regulation, or First Nations title and rights.”