British Columbia’s provincial government has recognized that its old-growth forests are irreplaceable, vital ecosystems, and has spared 10,000 square miles, or 2.6 million hectares of forest from logging.
The pause was issued following B.C.’s recently announced commitment to halt one-third of all old-growth logging, which itself came on the same day as world leaders at COP26 announced their own attempts to end deforestation.
The woods of B.C. gave it the name the “Brazil of the North” in the 1990s, and are filled with Douglas fir, western red cedar, and Roosevelt elk, black bears, wolves, and endangered birds. Some of the forests have remain undisturbed essentially since the last Ice Age, reports Globe and Mail.
“We’ve identified 2.6 million hectares of our largest, rarest and most ancient old-growth forests,” Forests Minister Katrine Conroy told a news conference. “Deferring harvest in an area this large is unprecedented and surpasses the size of 226 cities of Vancouver.”
The only catch is that based on the United Nations Treaty on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the B.C. government must receive the free, prior, and informed consent of 204 First Nations tribes that inhabit the province before making the logging moratoriums concrete.
Essentially, the First Nations could decide to continue to develop timber resources if they so wished.
The 2.6 million hectares are part of the 7.6 million hectares of ancient or old growth forest which remain in B.C., and represent a uniquely biodiverse and critical stands of trees.
Further plans to reform the governmental timber company and its logging patterns—away from clear-cutting and towards mimicking natural disturbances—are also coming, as the province looks toward a preservation-first attitude to forestry following pressure from community groups and non-profits like the Ancient Forest Alliance to protect local endangered old-growth areas.
“[This] means that we would harvest in a manner more linked to the way nature would change the forest. In some coastal forests, that’s a few trees at a time,” said Gary Merkel, a professional forester who participated in a government-ordered panel review of B.C. timber harvesting two years ago.
The provincial government hopes to complete the consultation with the Nations in a spritely 30 days, at which point it will ask timber operators to voluntarily give up their permits.
In the event they should not, Globe and Mail report, processes to repeal them will be followed, and future permit issuing banned.