Elected officials from around Vancouver Island voted against a resolution to ask for protection of all of B.C.’s old-growth forests.
The topic led to one of the lengthier debates Saturday, April 15, at the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities convention in Nanaimo. Municipal councillors and regional directors representing more than 50 communities are in the city all weekend for the meetings, being held at the Vancouver Island Conference Centre.
The District of Metchosin’s resolution asked for the B.C. government to protect from logging all remaining old-growth forest areas in the province, and also asked that local governments be consulted as the recommendations of B.C.’s old-growth review panel are implemented.
Metchosin Coun. Jay Shukin referenced the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s most recent report that suggested that aside from moving to renewable energy sources like wind and solar, the next most impactful action would be to “stop the destruction of forests and wildland areas.”
Among the delegates speaking in favour of the resolution was Saanich Coun. Teale Phelps Bondaroff. He said when discussing old-growth, a more “holistic look” is needed that goes beyond the value of the trees as carbon sinks or as economic development opportunities.
“When we look at climate change, we also have to be aware that climate chaos is impacting ecosystems and the species that live within them,” he said. “Old-growth forest is a rich habitat for species that are found only there.”
Regional District of Nanaimo director Jessica Stanley suggested she acknowledged the argument about trying to remedy past wrongs for First Nations who have been historically excluded from economic development opportunities, but said she had to vote in favour of the resolution for the next generation.
“There are some points in time that we need to make really hard decisions that are fundamentally rooted in the recommendations from the IPCC reports with regards to actions that we must take to attempt to at least slow down the effects of climate change,” she said.
A majority of delegates, however, were opposed to the first part of the resolution that called for protecting all remaining old-growth.
Coun. Fred Robertson from Port Hardy said the motion was barking up the wrong tree.
“This is a motion about forestry, not climate change … old-growth is a larger carbon sink, but in terms of carbon absorption, CO2 absorption, second-growth exceeds that,” he said.
Lake Cowichan Mayor Tim McGonigle referenced the Fairy Creek protests close to his area and said elected officials should respect the process of the province’s old-growth review panel.
“It’s important to remember that those First Nations who are impacted within those discussions have the final say in what happens,” he said.
Huu-ay-aht Coun. John Jack, chairperson of the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District, said First Nations would be most affected by a total moratorium on old-growth logging.
“From the perspective of First Nations involved in forestry, they’re not your trees to decide upon,” he said. “We have to have a balance. First Nations won’t be able to develop economically if we’re forced to rely merely on government transfers.”
The final speaker was Qathet Regional District director Andrew Fall, who said while there may be some experts in the room at the convention, most are not, and they should put their trust in the old-growth review panel recommendations.
“They’re done carefully, they’re done with a lot of science, they’re done with the future in mind, protection of ecosystems that I think is a really important issue, and they’re reasoned,” he said. “They’re not about everything, they’re about protecting enough old-growth of different kinds.”
Delegates voted against the first part of the resolution but voted in favour of the second part, which asked for local government engagement and consultation in following the recommendations of the old-growth review panel.