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UPDATED: Wildsight presses for old-growth protection

A Kootenay conservation group is calling on the provincial government to follow through on commitments to protect old-growth forests.

Wildsight will host four events on Thursday, including one in Nelson, as part of a province-wide “day of action.”

They say the rallies mark the end of the three-year period during with the government promised to implement 14 recommendations from its old growth strategic review.

“None of those recommendations have yet been fully implemented and more than half of the old growth identified for protection in the review is still in danger of being clear cut — including stands in the Kootenays and Columbia,” says Wildsight conservation specialist Eddie Petryshen.

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“So we’re really want to see accelerated action. We continue to see old-growth come out of the forest on logging trucks”

Petryshen said the area is home to “incredible ecosystems” and old-growth forests but they fear things are at a tipping point and they are calling for a “paradigm shift” in forest management. While logging deferrals have been implemented in the region, he says BC is still a long way off.

His organization is pressing for further action over the next two legislative sessions, starting with the fall sitting that begins next week.

“We need to see demonstrated action on old growth,” he said. “Premier Eby promised accelerated action on old growth when he came into office. So far that hasn’t happened.”

The Nelson event begins at city hall at 12:30 p.m. and will make its way to Nelson-Creston MLA Brittny Anderson’s office. Similar events are planned in Revelstoke, Golden, and Radium on the same day.

In response to a request for comment, Forests Minister Bruce Ralston insisted the province is “taking transformational action to protect old growth in partnership with First Nations rights and title holders,” and remains committed to implementing the old growth strategic review’s recommendations.

He said in the past three years, the province has deferred or protected 2.25 million hectares of old growth and work on further deferrals.

However, Wildsight disputes that figure. They say the more accurate figure is 1.15 million hectares of the 2.6 million hectares identified in the old-growth review. Wildsight says the higher figure comes from including one million hectares outside the old-growth panel’s recommended areas.

Petryshen said those areas may be important, but they aren’t at the greatest risk of being logged.

“They’ve deferred in 2.2 million but the number is deceiving,” he said. “What really matters is how much of it is the stuff that’s most at risk and the most productive areas that grow the biggest and best forests.”
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