Conservation groups use the law to protect coastal Douglas fir forests in BC

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Image from the Wilderness Committee

Vancouver – Environmental groups are filing of a lawsuit over the BC government’s failure to protect Coastal Douglas-fir forests.

The lawsuit attests that BC’s forestry laws require the BC Ministry of Environment and Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations to protect the remainder of these endangered forests and that, if the forests are to survive, all logging of this forest type must stop.

The environmental groups — Wilderness Committee, ForestEthics Solutions and Ecojustice – are seeking a court order stating that the province has violated its own laws to protect these forests from extinction. The case is expected to be heard this year.

“This is a greenwash test case,” said Valerie Langer, Director of BC Forest Conservation with ForestEthics Solutions. ”The province brags that it has world-leading environmental laws. Clearly this is misleading, and it’s about time that the province put some teeth into environmental protection. We’re going to court to press for that.”

BC’s Coastal Douglas-fir forests were formally designated for protection by the Ministry of Environment in 2006. However, logging of the remaining forests has continued for the last six years.

Reduced to fragmented pockets of mostly second-growth stands, these forests that once thrived on eastern Vancouver Island and parts of the Lower Mainland now teeter perilously close to elimination – the ecosystem equivalent of extinction. According to government documents, these forests are “almost gone,” with less than one per cent of old-growth forest intact due to years of successive logging and clearing for agriculture and human settlement.

The Coastal Douglas-fir forest used to be dominant in an area covering approximately 2,600 square kilometres. The BC Forest Practices Board has estimated that only 1,600 square kilometres still remain as forest, and that less than one per cent of that area remains in old-growth condition.

“This forest type is listed under BC’s forest laws as being at risk, but instead of being protected, the entire forest is being wiped out,” said Torrance Coste, the Wilderness Committee’s Vancouver Island Campaigner.

The BC government controls about nine per cent of all lands in the Coastal Douglas-fir forest (235 square kilometres). Recently, the province allowed logging in endangered Coastal Douglas-fir forest near Nanaimo, despite its purported protection under BC’s forestry laws. Local environmentalists have disputed this development, contending that the BC government cannot legally grant logging rights to the area.

“Do our laws say ‘protect the environment’ in one clause but in the next provide a loophole to legally destroy it? Or is the province legally required to protect these endangered forests and species?” said Devon Page, Executive Director of Ecojustice, whose lawyers are leading the case. “If the government is breaking its own law, then we want the courts to make the province take action to protect the last of these endangered forests.”