British Columbia

Biodiversity may be at risk near Prince George, B.C., says forestry watchdog

An independent investigation into how the province manages some of its oldest forests has found industry practices may be putting biodiversity at risk, according to a statement from the province Thursday.

Investigation found forestry practices outdated, not keeping up with science around pine beetle impact

The B.C. Forest Practices Board has found concerns with how government and licensees are managing the timber supply area around Prince George, B.C. (Chris Corday/CBC)

An independent investigation into how the province manages some of its oldest forests has found industry practices may be putting biodiversity at risk, according to a statement from the province Thursday.

The B.C. Forest Practices Board, an independent industry watchdog, says in the statement that forest licensees are complying with legal requirements for biodiversity protection.

However, the board found some concerns with how government and timber licensees are managing one of the province's largest timber supply areas around Prince George, B.C.

Board chair Kevin Kriese noted that the legal order on biodiversity protection in the Prince George timber supply area was developed nearly 20 years ago. 

"[In the early 2000s] the province was just starting to manage old-growth [forest], and they used the best available science at the time, went through a public review process and the established legal objectives" he said. "Twenty years later, that original legal order has never been updated."

The B.C. Forest Practices Board is now calling on the province to update its objectives for old forest in partnership with Indigenous communities in the area. (Yvon Theriault/Radio-Canada)

The statement said the investigation also found concerns over how the industry designates old-growth trees in the Prince George timber supply area.

"In some ecosystems, the order uses greater than 140 years to define old forest, where the rest of the province uses greater than 250 years for the same ecosystems," the statement said.

The Prince George timber supply area is also one of the few areas in the province where the size of old-growth forest legally required to be conserved is not identified on maps, according to the statement.

It is instead measured as a percentage of the overall forest inventory, the defining parameters of which were created nearly 20 years ago, said board chair Kevin Kriese.

"A lot of the pines disappeared … killed by the [mountain] pine beetle," he said. "But there's also elevated salvaging.…You quite simply don't have biodiversity in the places that you might have expected 20 years ago." 

The board is recommending that the remaining old forest be mapped, and that government revisit its approach to biodiversity protection, the statement said.

It is now calling on the province to update its objectives for old forest and that it does so in partnership with Indigenous communities in the area. 

The Prince George timber supply area is approximately eight million hectares, or more than twice the size of Vancouver Island, and is the largest timber supply area in the province. 

With files from Andrew Kurjata

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