As a passionate environmentalist, I recognize how deeply important it is for us to preserve the incredible biodiversity found in our old-growth forests. As a new grandfather, I also know we owe it to future generations to protect the legacy of our ancient trees.
On June 9, our government honoured the request of the Pacheedaht, Ditidaht, and Huu-ay-aht First Nations to defer old-growth logging in over 2,000 hectares of forest in the Fairy Creek Watershed and Central Walbran Valley so the First Nations title holders can create and implement resource stewardship plans for these lands.
While this deferral is an important step, there’s hard work ahead to undo the mismanagement of the forestry sector inherited from the BC Liberals.
Since day one, protecting old-growth has been a priority of our government. That’s why we appointed an expert panel to review old-growth management in our province. We immediately committed to adopting all 14 recommendations made in their report.
We have recently protected 200,000 hectares of old growth forest in nine different areas of the province, including areas in Clayoquot Sound and the famous Skagit Valley “doughnut hole.” This is in addition to the 10 million hectares of old-growth already under protection or uneconomical to harvest. And more old-growth protections are coming this summer.
Earlier this month, we released our modernized forestry policy plan, which is intended to shift away from effectively selling massive amounts of land to private corporations and moving towards a doubling of the replaceable forestry tenure held by Indigenous nations.
As the minister of indigenous relations and reconciliation, I know that when it comes to transforming forestry, we need to work with First Nations. B.C. was the first government in North America to adopt the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Fairy Creek is an example of what a true government-to-government relationship looks like in this context. Shared prosperity and ecological stewardship can be accomplished if we work side by side.
I know environmental preservation is a priority for many in our community and I can assure you that it is a priority for our government as well. There is much more to do, and we are working every day to get it right.
Murray Rankin is the MLA for Oak Bay–Gordon Head.
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