Old-growth logging approvals have gone up over the past year despite the B.C. government promising to protect old-growth forests, according to new research from an environmental group.
Mapping done by the Wilderness Committee, a group dedicated to preserving forests and the ecosystems within them, shows that cutblock approvals in B.C. have nearly doubled this year over last.
In the year to April 30, logging was approved for 84,669 hectares — almost 850 square kilometres — of old-growth forest, equivalent to almost one-third of the Metro Vancouver area. During the previous 12-month period logging was approved for 59,228 hectares, making for a year-over-year increase of 43 per cent.
"The old-growth logging, as we expected, is concentrated in ... the more productive old-growth," campaign director Torrance Coste told CBC's Kieran Oudshoorn.
"When a company gets a cutblock permit, they sometimes move on it the next day and they sometimes sit on it. I think there has been a massive increase in cutblock applications by logging companies. We have never really heard of cutblocks being applied for, and not approved, by the B.C. government."
In April 2020, a report created by two foresters, Gary Merkel and Al Gorley, was submitted to the B.C. government calling for protection of old-growth forests out of concern the current management plan would lead to permanent biodiversity loss.
In September, the province released that report to the public, and committed to protecting 353,000 hectares of forest, some, but not all, of which is old-growth.
Merkel said the jump in approved old-growth cutblock permits is concerning, and when it comes to ancient forests, there is a lack of transparency from the provincial government.
He added that the province is falling behind the timeline laid out in his report, and that much more old-growth needs to be deferred, and nation-to-nation relationships need to be better defined.
"We need to see much, much broader deferrals," he said.
"We need a lot more urgency from government on this."
The Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, said it received the report from the Wilderness Committee Monday and is reviewing the group's findings.
"We know, and we've said clearly, that the status quo on old-growth management isn't acceptable. We inherited a patchwork of measures on old-growth and we know we need a comprehensive strategy to move forward," a ministry spokesperson said in a written statement to CBC.
"That's why the government commissioned Al Gorley and Gary Merkel to do the research and report back."
The ministry said it is working on engagement with Indigenous communities, local governments, industry stakeholders and the public.
To hear Torrance Coste's interview with CBC's On the Coast, click here: