British Columbia

Prince George protesters say B.C. is failing at protecting old-growth forests

The B.C. government says it won't prohibit logging in old-growth forests for now, although it promised in September it would temporarily defer some harvesting. Art Fredeen, professor of ecosystem science at University of Northern British Columbia, says poor logging practices affect the climate as well as biodiversity.

Rally is part of a global campaign urging immediate action on climate change

About 70 people gather in downtown Prince George, B.C., on Friday to demand an end to old-growth logging in northern British Columbia. (Andrew Kurjata/CBC)

About 70 people took to the streets Friday at noon in downtown Prince George, B.C., calling on the province to do more to protect old-growth forests in northern B.C.

The rally — launched by local environmental concern group Conservation North — is part of a four-day global Scientist Rebellion campaign against climate change from March 25 to 28.

Art Fredeen, professor of ecosystem science at University of Northern British Columbia and a speaker in the rally, says continued logging of old-growth forests is affecting not only biodiversity but also the climate.  

"Our old-growth forests sit at this nexus of holding carbon from the atmosphere," Fredeen said Friday to Andrew Kurjata, the guest host of CBC's Daybreak North. "The habitat that they create for wildlife and other types of life is just astounding." 

Art Fredeen, professor of ecosystem science at University of Northern British Columbia, says continued cutting of old-growth trees contributes to climate change and loss of biodiversity. (Andrew Kurjata/CBC)

Just over 13 million hectares of old forests remain in B.C., according to provincial data, but an independent report published last April says that's an overestimate and there are actually only 400,000 hectares left.

Another independent study published last April urges the B.C. government to act within six months to defer harvesting in old-growth ecosystems that are at the highest risk of losing biodiversity.

The province announced last September it would temporarily defer old-growth harvesting, but Forests Minister Katrine Conroy said earlier this month that the province's work on this front was significantly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Conservation North director Michelle Connolly says the province is still issuing logging permits to companies in northern B.C.'s at-risk old-growth forests 

"There have been absolutely no deferrals of logging here," Connolly said. 

Michelle Connolly, the director of Prince George advocacy group Conservation North, says the province is still allowing logging of at-risk old-growth forests. (Andrew Kurjata/CBC)

The Forests Ministry wrote to CBC News that logging practices won't be prohibited for the time being.

"We know some are calling for an immediate moratorium, but this approach risks thousands of good family supporting jobs," says the ministry's statement.

According to the B.C. Council of Forest Industries, about 38,000 jobs are tied to harvesting old growth in B.C.

Tap the link below to learn more:

While old growth forests on B.C.'s coast and Vancouver Island get lots of attention, there is a great need to protect old growth spruce and Douglas fir stands in the province's north, says UNBC professor Art Fredeen. Instead, it is being logged. 9:30

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With files from Daybreak North, Andrew Kurjata and Canadian Press

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