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Forestry investigation finds old growth protection inadequate

Forestry investigation finds old growth protection inadequate
PROVINCE OF B.C. — A family observes a massive tree in a B.C. forest near Port Clemens. A recent investigation found that old growth forests in some parts of the province were not being adequately protected from logging.

PORT ALBERNI, B.C. — After investigating a complaint regarding BC Timber Sales’ (BCTS) logging of large old growth trees in the Nahmint River Watershed, officials have concluded the group’s forest stewardship plan does not align with the Vancouver Island Higher Level Plan Order and does not properly preserve old forest and biodiversity values in some ecosystems.

“The 2001 Vancouver Island Land Use Plan Order sets specific objectives for conserving biodiversity,” said Kevin Kriese, chair of the Forest Practices Board, in a statement. “More detailed landscape unit planning was supposed to provide clear direction on how much and where to conserve old and mature forest, but that planning was never completed. BCTS was left with a complicated set of legal objectives to interpret, and we found it missed important details that are required to manage for biodiversity in the Nahmint.”

In the plan, BCTS decided to conserve a minimum amount of old forests in biogeoclimatic zone variants, but the Vancouver Island Land Use Plan Order mandates it to conserve old forest in each site series, a finer scale of classification that captures a wider range of the diversity of the ecosystems found in the area.

“BCTS’s FSP did not meet the legal objective, and it should not have been approved. We looked at the remaining forest in the watershed and found there are some ecosystems that could be at risk if more logging takes place in them,” Kriese said.

The FSP recommends the province conduct landscape unit planning to specify the amounts of forest to retain in different site series and that BCTS amend its plans to align with legal objectives. It also recommends BCTS ensure it does not sell any timber sales in these high-risk ecosystems until the landscape unit plan is completed.

The investigation was launched after a complaint from Ancient Forest Alliance whose members saw BCTS licensees harvesting large old trees in 2018.

They also raised concerns about the adequacy of a government investigation of the matter. The board found that government’s investigation was reasonable.

However, the current legislation limits the ability to enforce the provisions of the Vancouver Island Higher Level Plan Order.

“The current legal framework does not permit government to ensure that FSPs approved in error can be amended, and this does not give the public confidence in government’s compliance and enforcement,” Kriese said. “We are recommending government fix this gap in the legislation.”

The Nahmint River Watershed is about 20 kilometres southwest of Port Alberni and covers 19,950 hectares. It begins at Alberni Inlet and extends northwest, surrounding the Nahmint River and Nahmint Lake. It is within the traditional territory of the Nuu-chah-nulth people.

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