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27th July 2019
Adam Olsen Blog

When Minister of Forests, Hon. Doug Donaldson announced that his Ministry was moving to protect 54 trees on the “Old-Growth Registry”, he made another announcement that is giving hope for the tens of thousands of people in British Columbia concerned about how our province is managing the last remaining old-growth forests.

He has appointed Garry Merkel, a Tahltan forestry and natural resource expert, and Al Gorley, a professional forester and former Chair of the Forest Practices Board. Their job is to “hear perspectives on the ecological, economic and cultural importance of old-growth trees and forests.” Following that, “they will report back to government in Spring 2020 with recommendations that are expected to inform a new approach to old-growth management for British Columbia.”

Trees or ecosystems?

My criticism about the Minister’s approach, protecting individual trees rather than forests and ecosystems, is sharp. It’s not the direction we should be going. Developing an integrated strategy to protect the few remaining intact, highly productive ecosystems is the right direction.

As I have oft-repeated, there are few issues in British Columbia that capture the attention of people as trees and forests do. Particularly, forests of really big old trees. They are, after all, the oldest living creatures on earth. Their memories stretch back to the days of our ancestors, whether Tahltan or Coast Salish. They deserve our respect and our reflection on how we are going to relate to them.

This is the frame in which Merkel and Gorley step into their new roles. From the flow of correspondence to my offices on this issue, I know British Columbians are passionate about protecting these ecosystems. What will they hear when they are listening to the perspectives? Will it be the status quo, the paradigm that has us here in 2019 wondering what to do with the few remaining intact old-growth ecosystems? Or, will it be the perspective of the past 100 or so years when foresters and natural resource experts have overseen the razing of these ancient giants.

Optimism management

It’s fair criticism to highlight that protecting “54 groves with iconic trees” falls well short of the mark. However, the fact the Minister has appointed Merkel and Gorley is the source of some hope and optimism. It remains to be seen what they hear in their listening exercise and what they recommend next Spring. For thousands of British Columbians, these are the two most important jobs in the province right now!

In only a few months we will see if they recommend an old-growth protection plan or an old-growth harvesting plan. No matter what they recommend, it’s in the hands of the Minister, Cabinet and BC NDP government. Will they will show restraint or just proceed with the Loraxian approach?