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Decide Before the Old Growth Forest is Gone Forever

Updated: Jun 20, 2022

Open letter to Premier Horgan, The Minister of Forests, Terry Teegee, Regional Chief, British Columbia Assembly of First Nations and Grand Chief Stewart Phillip and Joan Phillip, Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs.

June 8, 2022

Dear Premier Horgan, The Hon. Katrine Conroy, Regional Chief Terry Teegee, and Grand Chief Stewart Phillip and Joan Phillip;

As a citizen of Canada, a resident of British Columbia, and a white settler of third and fourth generations, living on traditional Snuneymuxw territory, (and grateful to do so), I am very concerned about the preservation of our old growth forests and the great biodiversity that is found in them.

We elected John Horgan and the NDP in part because they promised to protect the last remaining 3% of the old growth forests in BC and yet they are still issuing licenses to cut and the forest is still being cut at a fast rate. I learned recently that even Cathedral Grove on Vancouver Island may not be immune to logging. The following cartoon says it all.

I have heard John Horgan say that he has given the First Nations a choice and asked them if they want to delay or cancel old growth logging and they are still in discussions about what to do. I understand these decisions are important, and there is much at stake on many sides. But if we delay any longer, it will be moot. The forest will all be gone. Turned into wood pellets to burn in England or soft toilet paper for our tender bums.

What a waste! What a loss! Something that will never be fully recovered.

The fight for saving the old growth forest is not just about saving a few big trees. It is about saving a complete ecosystem of interconnected life forms -- animals, insects, plants, birds, and fungi that support each other and depend on each other. It is about saving an ecosystem that retains moisture, filters water, gives us oxygen and manages the climate around us and the entire natural water system. It’s about preserving habitat for species that are otherwise going extinct. It’s about preserving biodiversity. It’s about preserving the salmon. It is my understanding that, for First Nations, it is about preserving the capacity for the land to sustain their culture and their livelihood.

Imagine the terrible position band councils are in to have to decide whether to take logging contracts and cut down their future well-being to have an economy and jobs, or whether to refuse those contracts and remain dependent on meagre public support and live in poverty.

Surely there is a solution to this dilemma. I would like to see proposals brought forward from both Government and First Nations that would be good starters to explore for solutions. There are already many examples out there. I have read of First Nations being hired to serve and protect the forests as stewards for future generations of people and wild life.

We know now that in this era of accelerating climate change, the old growth forests are an important line of defence. They are an important carbon sink, absorbing carbon and storing it, and emitting oxygen. When they are cut down and replanted, they will not be a carbon sink again for decades. Thinking that planting saplings is a replacement for old growth is bad math. Not only that, second plantings are often all one species. They are much more vulnerable to drought and disease. The capacity of old growth to recycle water informs the weather all around them. They are resistant to and therefore protect us from out-of-control forest fires.

Thousands of people have been arrested trying to protect our forests. Howard Breen and Brent Eichler were on hunger strike for over 4 weeks before they understood that this government would let them die before it would do anything. These people are begging us to see the urgency of action before it is all gone. Can we not take some action to recognize the real threat that we all face if things continue as they are?

We cannot, collectively, delay any longer in making the decisions to protect our forest. I appeal to all of you, sit down at the table and talk. Let’s make free, prior, informed consent work. Let’s make sure that First Nations have work with dignity that doesn’t involve cutting down the forests that sustain their culture and lifestyle.

I have read recent news reports that we have no good forest left to cut. We have already over cut our stocks. Cutting down big trees and the ecosystems that they nurture for huge dollars is a very short term solution. The forestry sector is already in trouble and it is transition time for them now. Some workers in that industry will either have to adapt to value-added work that cuts far less and does much more with it. Others may have to transition to other work, or go into new businesses such as growing and making products out of hemp. Cutting down the old growth will not save this transition. It will only delay it. The price is too high.

This is the turning point. We have to nurture our forests back, and learn to live with them sustainably -- both First Nations and settler. Reconciliation is important: reconciliation with both indigenous people and settlers, and between all of us and the land that sustains us. It’s time to look for real solutions to big problems so that everyone can have options to live with dignity.

Please sit down together and talk about solutions for all of us. I would like to hear from you that you are taking action to stop the logging, and that we will preserve all the old growth that is alive today.

Most sincerely,

Rev. Frances Deverell

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