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  • Premier Eby fiddles while BC burns

    Kathy Code

    An open letter to BC Premier David Eby



    The Donnie Creek Fire, northwest of Fort St. John, in May 2023


    BC IS ON FIRE and you, Premier Eby, are busy fiddling while our forests burn. Your commitment to protect old-growth forest has gone up in flames just like 1.5 million hectares already burned this season. With more than 1,200 fires since April 2023 and 400 wildfires still on the go, you appear to be keeping your cool, unperturbed by the destruction to lives, homes, wildlife, land, and property. You would rather spend millions of dollars of taxpayer money to fight the fires than address the root causes that have led to one of the worst BC fire seasons on record.

    Now you and your NDP MLAs are blaming lightening strikes. You fail to mention the growing evidence that clear cut logging and monoculture tree plantations where deciduous trees and shrubs are killed off with glyphosate create the best conditions for lightning to ignite fires. BC just happens to have a wealth of these waiting to go up in flames.

    Seems you rather see our forests burned than stewarded according to science-based forestry. Just a reminder that there is no scientific basis for either clear cutting forests or replacing them with tree monoculture plantations.

    Yet I suppose you will point to the old-growth related announcements since you took office. Let’s explore those, shall we?

    First, there were the deferral of 2.6 million hectares of old-growth, where you stated government would support these deferrals and “immediately cease advertising and sales of BC Timber Sales in the affected areas.”

    Now we’re learning through a new tool called “Forest Eye” that government is in fact cutting its way through deferred forest lands. Developed by Stand.Earth, “Forest Eye combines satellite imagery, remote sensing, and government data to detect logging and road-building in the most rare and at-risk old growth forests.” Citizens now have access to information that proves that deferral does not mean deferral.

    Next came news of the removal of the word “unduly” from the Forest Planning and Practices Regulation, meaning that forest planning around biodiversity and wildlife habitat can now take place even if it reduces the timber harvest. Great joy and cause for celebration, right? Fat chance. The very next line in the Order in Council #76 (OC) states that the “unduly” wording continues “to apply to a forest stewardship plan that is in effect on the coming into force of this section.” Since the majority of Crown lands (aka unceded Indigenous lands) are already under agreement to a variety of industrial forest companies, there’s little left that this OC would possibly apply to. Instead, the OC applies only “the next time that a mandatory amendment is required, or a replacement FSP is prepared and submitted for approval, the holder will be required to develop results and strategies to meet the updated provisions.” Considering that Forest Stewardship Plans can last for 10 years until review, this OC is simply pointless.

    Then came the deferral of the Fairy Creek area, announced in a BC government news release June 2, 2023. Again, much joy and relief! However, a wee bit of research reveals that the 1189.3 hectares were already protected as an Old-Growth Management Area. It’s not a permanent protection for the watershed and there was no end date attached, yet under the deferral, it’s only protected until February 1, 2025. For primary old-growth forest, this reprieve is a nanosecond in the timeline of our once great forests.

    And still no sign that your NDP government is going to honour the commitment to the recommendations of the Old Growth Strategic Review.

    So what do we have instead? A government that would rather spend hundreds of millions of dollars fighting the forest fires ripping across the province. These are forest fires caused by the very forest practices government touts as world-class sustainable forestry. Now we have forests that are a net carbon emitters rather than a carbon storage and unable to do their job in regulating the climate.

    There is something very wrong with a government willing to sacrifice first responders and enact evacuation orders in favour of increasing the wealth of industrial corporations. Our province is going up in flames and there’s nothing your NDP government is willing to do about it. You remain steadfast in your determination not to protect our old-growth forests despite ongoing citizen outcry and protests. It’s a bitter truth.

    Indeed, Minister Bowinn Ma’s recent exhortation for everyone, including businesses, to follow local water restrictions and that “efforts should be made to conserve water and protect critical environmental flows” seems laughable when industrial forest companies are provided government approval to rip up intact ecosystems and destroy water systems that have developed over thousands of years. There is a profound disconnect here.

    So fiddle away, Premier Eby, while we burn. It is clear there is a defence of necessity and it is up to citizens and communities to do what we can to save the old-growth that’s left. Let’s get on with it.

    Kathy Code is a member of the Fairy Creek Forest Defenders and a member of the RFS legal team.

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