Environmental groups launch legal challenge against British Columbia's forest policy, accuse province of failing to protect old-growth coastal Douglas fir forests, claim area has dropped to 1,600 km2 from 2,600 km2 with 2.75 km2 of old-growth remaining
VANCOUVER, British Columbia
October 30, 2013
– Province breaking its own law in failing to protect old-growth forest, environment groups say
Arguments are set to begin today over whether the Province of British Columbia is bound by law to protect an endangered old-growth Coastal Douglas-fir ecosystem.
Ecojustice lawyers are representing the Wilderness Committee and ForestEthics Solutions in this legal challenge against the provincial government.
“We expect the government to argue that B.C.’s forestry laws don’t require it to do anything to protect the habitat of species at risk, in this case the endangered Coastal Douglas-fir forest,” said Devon Page, Ecojustice Executive Director. "In order to protect not only these once iconic forests, but all forest-dependent species at risk, we will argue that the province has acted unlawfully and broken its own law.”
Previously, the Coastal Douglas-fir forest was dominant in an area covering approximately 2,600 square kilometres. The B.C. Forest Practices Board has estimated that only 1,600 square kilometres still remain as forest, and based on government data, only about 2.75 square kilometres — an area smaller than Stanley Park — remain in old-growth condition.
“It’s gotten to the point where we have to argue with the province in court over whether they have to protect the last, tiny percentage point of an ecosystem that their own scientists say needs protection,” said Torrance Coste, Vancouver Island Campaigner for the Wilderness Committee. “This is incredibly disappointing, and points to the larger shortcomings of forest management in B.C.”
The B.C. government controls about nine per cent of all lands in the Coastal Douglas-fir forest, and despite its purported protection under B.C.’s forestry laws, the province recently allowed logging in a forest of this type near Nanaimo. An affidavit from former long-time Ministry of Forests employee Mary Jo Hamey, who rang the alarm bell on logging in this endangered ecosystem, forms part of the evidence submitted by the groups.
“Does the province make their environmental laws to be ignored, or to be ineffective? That’s what we’re about to find out,” said Valerie Langer, B.C. Conservation Director for ForestEthics Solutions.