In November Premier David Eby promised “accelerated action” on implementing the Old Growth Strategic Review’s recommendations. I had high hopes the decades of overcutting primary forests were nearing their end. Just lip service? Well, the B.C. NDP commissioned it and has failed to act meaningfully 100+ days into his leadership and 2.5+ years into the Review’s recommended timeline. Weren’t old growth deferrals meaningful? Yes, mostly. Problem is, many indigenous nations were displeased about being asked after the fact, so the laying down of the plan was flawed before it started. Specific information on which deferrals were enacted and whether these examples really exemplified the most at-risk systems is scant. There is no set process or plan in place to ensure the protection of truly at-risk ecosystem types or specific species in B.C. The deferrals are a patchwork and do not necessarily contain functioning systems. Half the deferral list is still on the chopping block. The deferrals depend on forestry-dependent indigenous nations to choose a two-year deferral or permanently protect them. So there aren’t a lot of certainties, especially with no plan for transferring forest economics away from simple lumber values to ecosystem health, which is the foundational paradigm shift that the review called for.

The new paradigm sees trees as they really are: the most obvious features involved in multi-directional interactions between myriad living beings, cycling and storing carbon at every turn as they further interrelate with hydrologic cycles, wind patterns, landforms, minerals, and temperatures within a given ecosystem’s area over time. The shift from simply seeing forests as fodder for milled lumber is massive.

Considering this, a multidisciplinary team, including regional conservation ecologists at minimum, should be involved. The review called for a provincial tri-zone system. The zonation was made by pretty decent foresters, but some ideas differ from those of a conservation ecologist. On that note, I’ll provide my thoughts partly based on a local conservation ecologist’s tri-zone system, from this recent colloquium:
1.) Tree Farming (with improvements to minimize roads, epidemic disease, rapid runoff/erosion, and fire risk).
2.) Rehabilitation:  Restoration ecology with management only toward creating habitat and kick-starting ecosystem dynamics with the further goal of transforming it to full wilderness protection in time.
3.) Full Protection:  Existing intact ecosystems so we and the wild ones have some planetary support systems that are as close to fully functioning as they can be considering that they are open systems with development in their vicinity.

The ecosystems contained in the Walker, the Goat, Raush watersheds-each with at-risk species-should be protected. By pressuring the province and feds to immediately provide local indigenous nations and communities economic incentives to protect these valleys, we locals can at least lead here, providing some degree of certainty for the unborn generations to come. With B.C. leading Canada with more than 2000 (known) species at risk, and both Canada and B.C. committing to conserving 30% of their land and water by 2030, it seems fairly timely that Eby steps on the accelerator with this file. It’s the pedal on the right, David.

Rob Mercereau