British Columbia

Letter signed by 200 leaders, activists, actors seeks protection for B.C.'s old-growth forests

A Vancouver-based environmental group says more than 200 prominent people — including Dame Judi Dench, Jane Goodall, William Shatner, and Grand Chief Stewart Phillip — have signed a letter calling on B.C. Premier John Horgan to halt old-growth logging.

Signatories include Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, former NASA scientist James Hansen and actor Dame Judie Dench

Only fragments of old-growth forest remain in B.C., and logging continues, despite recent deferrals announced by the province, according to Vancouver-based environmental group Canopy. (Submitted by TJ Watt)

A Vancouver-based environmental group says more than 200 prominent people including scientists, Indigenous leaders, politicians, actors and artists, have signed a letter calling on British Columbia Premier John Horgan to halt old-growth logging.

Canopy says those signing the open letter and sending messages to Horgan range from Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs Grand Chief Stewart Phillip to former NASA scientist James Hansen and actors William Shatner and Dame Judi Dench.

Shatner's message says standing beside a giant cedar makes it clear how "small our place in the universe really is,'' and the premier should let the forests "live long and prosper.''

A statement from Canopy says only fragments of old-growth forests remain in B.C., and logging continues, despite recent deferrals announced by the province covering "relatively small areas.''

A slice of old growth known as a cookie blocks an entrance in the west wing where the premier's office is located on Oct. 4, 2021. (Chad Hipolito/The Canadian Press)

The Squamish Nation reported in June that it had identified at least 20 cut blocks within 150 kilometres of Vancouver where old-growth logging is planned and it echoed three Vancouver Island First Nations that say they will defer all old-growth harvesting while developing long-term sustainability plans in their territories.

Forests Minister Katrine Conroy told the legislature during question period this week that B.C. has deferred harvesting of old growth in 11 areas this year, totalling nearly 200,000 hectares, and brought in big-tree regulation that protects over 1,500 groves.

The B.C. government commissioned an independent panel in 2019 to make recommendations on its approach to transforming old-growth forestry management and Conroy said it is implementing all 14 recommendations.

"We've protected forest habitats for caribou, spotted owl, vulnerable species like the marbled murrelet and northern goshawk,'' she said.

Primatologist Jane Goodall is another of the signatories to the letter and her message demanding a halt to old-growth logging says it's "increasingly urgent'' that voices be raised to protect forests.

"Every ancient tree felled, every species that becomes extinct, represents another threat to the future of our planet,'' Goodall said in the statement.

Nicole Rycroft, Canopy's executive director, says the many calls to protect B.C.'s oldest trees "underscore the breadth of support for conservation and how important it is for planetary health.''

This latest letter builds on a similar one Canopy sent in June containing the signatures of 100 old-growth logging opponents.