Fires and flooding: how B.C.’s forest policies collide with climate change

The province has prioritized timber sales over all else, but right now there is a chance to change that

Grand Forks flooding 2018
An aerial view of Grand Forks flooding, courtesy of Sergeant Mike Wicentowich, one of many RCMP officers dispatched in response to the flood. Interfor’s property can be seen centre left. Photo: Sergeant Mike Wicentowich

ritish Columbians have a complicated relationship with forests. Growing up, my favourite stand of old-growth trees was only accessible by a logging road. At the time, that barely seemed noteworthy: I knew forests held ecological value, and were also valued by local mills. But when the logging road became active again, and I started following empty trucks up and full trucks down, I began wondering whether those values were well balanced.

That tension still runs close to the heart of British Columbians. We promote our provincial identity as nature-lovers through old-growth forests on tourism ads. But in many ways, we never left the gold rush era of destructive, unsustainable industries that wreak havoc on the land. Meanwhile, the forest-based communities we cherish are increasingly at risk.

Forestry practices in B.C. have been criticized for a long time. Mill closures, forest fires and species extinction are all symptoms of disastrous forest policies and provincial government mismanagement. In today’s era of climate change, which is already having a measurable impact on forests, every bad policy is made worse.

Canada is warming twice as fast as the rest of the world, putting us on the frontlines of global climate change. But the time to “stop” climate change has passed. Now, we’re left bracing for the worst impacts of the climate emergency by adopting strategies to make our communities more resilient to increasing wildfires and devastating floods.

One of the most obvious strategies? Protecting the old-growth forests and intact forests — meaning landscapes not fragmented and degraded by industrial activity — still standing in BC.

Older, intact forests hold tremendous value to nearby communities by offering protection from the worst impacts of climate change. But not if we continue to clearcut one of our best defences. B.C.’s outdated forestry policies have undermined these values by prioritizing timber harvest over all else. It’s time to change that.

Old-growth forestry in the Nahmint Valley. Photo: TJ Watt / Ancient Forest Alliance

Resilient forests, resilient communities

Poor logging practices and industrial infrastructure threaten rural and urban communities alike. With provincial forest policy amendments underway, now is the time to make sure our communities get the conversation — and results — we need.

Until July 15, B.C. is seeking public input on key legislation, the Forest and Range Practices Act. A joint submission by 28 organizations puts climate change and landscape resiliency front and centre, defining resiliency as the “ability of an ecosystem to cope with disturbance or stress and rebuild itself without losing its defining characteristics.” MORE


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