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Province launches made-in-B.C. conservation tool, takes further action on old-growth forest

October 26, 2023 at 12:48 pm  BC, News, Politics, Provincial

The Province is accelerating protection of B.C.’s oldest and rarest trees while benefiting communities and wildlife by launching a new $300-million Conservation Financing Mechanism – $150 million from the Province, matched by a commitment to raise an additional $150 million from the BC Parks Foundation.  

“Conserving nature is one of the most important things we can do to protect against the worst effects of climate change while creating a healthier future for everyone,” said Premier David Eby. “That’s why we’re working with the BC Parks Foundation and First Nations to launch a new tool that will protect old-growth forests and conserve critical habitat across the province for generations to come.”

Conservation financing will ensure that First Nations and the Province can conserve critical habitat, better manage for climate change, and further government’s action on protecting more of B.C.’s lands and waters and implementing the Old Growth Strategic Review.

“The new Conservation Finance Mechanism will add further Indigenous-led protections for the beautiful lands and waters that are integral to who we are as British Columbians and to First Nations’ culture and way of life,” said Nathan Cullen, Minister of Water, Land and Resource Stewardship. “We call on other groups and individuals to contribute to this fund, which will help protect the remarkable forests and diverse ecosystems that people, communities and wildlife depend on.”

As part of this unique made-in-B.C. partnership, the BC Parks Foundation will co-ordinate with other philanthropic organizations and use a crowd-sourcing approach so all British Columbians can contribute to the protection of important ecosystems, including old-growth forests. In this way, the $150 million provided by the Province will leverage further donations from individuals and the private sector to increase the overall effect of this funding.

Together, this $300 million will be used to fund new conservation measures that are led or supported by First Nations, lasting environmental protection measures, capacity building for First Nations, stewardship and guardian programs, and support for low-carbon economic opportunities.

“Conservation financing is a core tool that can help us to preserve options for the future and to advance our ability to properly manage, maintain and conserve ecosystem health, biodiversity and our oldest and rarest trees,” said Garry Merkel, co-author, Old Growth Strategic Review. “This conservation financing initiative has the necessary resources and Indigenous grounding to help on both of these fronts — preserving options and helping us advance.”

The funds will be managed by the foundation and will be overseen independently from government by a special committee made up of experts, half of whom will be First Nations.

The Conservation Financing Mechanism is one of B.C.’s actions underway to accelerate old-growth protection, as recommended by the Old Growth Strategic Review. It joins new Forest Landscape Planning that is replacing existing forest stewardship plans and establishes clear objectives for the long-term management of old growth, biodiversity, climate change and wildfire risk.

“People in B.C. care deeply for our forests, which is why we are accelerating our actions to protect our oldest and rarest forests for future generations,” said Bruce Ralston, Minister of Forests. “We are using the best science and data available, and collaborating with First Nations, local communities and industry to create a stronger, more sustainable forest stewardship. New forest landscape plans reflect the generational shift in forestry, where we can depend on a strong and sustainable industry that also safeguards biodiversity and long-term ecosystem health.”

The locations of five new Forest Landscape Plans have been confirmed in partnership with local First Nations; Bulkley Valley, 100 Mile House, Williams Lake, east-central Vancouver Island and west-central Vancouver Island. These new plans will reflect the ongoing collaboration between the Province, First Nations, local communities and forest companies to improve management of forests and certainty for the sector. 

Since November 2021, the Province has engaged with First Nations about deferring old-growth logging to protect the most at-risk old-growth forests. As a result of significant collaboration between First Nations, the forest industry and the Province, deferrals have now been implemented on approximately 2.4 million hectares of old growth in B.C., including 1.23 million hectares of the most at-risk old growth identified by the Old Growth Technical Advisory Panel.

As recommended in the Old Growth Strategic Review, logging deferrals are a temporary measure to prevent irreversible biodiversity loss, while developing the new, long-term approaches to forest management through Forest Landscape Plans.

Quotes:

George Heyman, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy –

“We can have a sustainable economy with good jobs, a rich natural environment and positive relations with First Nations, but we have to do things differently than we have in the past. The issues are connected and can’t be tackled piecemeal by separate groups, agencies, funders and programs. We need to make it possible for all British Columbians to create real-world solutions that are relevant to where and how they live. It starts with recognizing, empowering and inspiring people to work together. That’s why we are contributing this funding.”

Tori Ball, terrestrial conservation manager, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, British Columbia –

“The creation of the fund is a massive step toward closing the gap in ongoing funding needs for nature conservation in B.C. The fund will play a critical role in actioning the Province’s commitments to address the rapid loss of species and global biodiversity crisis, in partnership with First Nations. Indigenous-led conservation and stewardship take their rightful place at the core of this innovative funding tool.”

Terry Teegee, board member, BC Parks Foundation, and Regional Chief, BC Assembly of First Nations –

“First Nations have always believed that if we take care of nature, it will take care of us. Many Nations are creating Indigenous-protected areas and wildlife corridors as well as looking for ways to have an economy that is in harmony with nature. This funding will help support Nations who have a vision of abundance in their territories. That will benefit everyone.”

Ross Beaty, chair, BC Parks Foundation –

“B.C.’s biodiversity is part of our identity, keeps us safe and is the wellspring of our health, security, culture and economy, so the provincial government’s investment is right on target. We are making a $150-million matching pledge so that everyone who loves British Columbia can join in this transformative effort to keep B.C. beautiful forever.”

Tara Marsden, Gitanyow Hereditary Chiefs –

“These critical resources will help bolster more Indigenous-led conservation, and ensure we are collectively better prepared to mitigate climate change impacts from the very local to the global. Indigenous sustainability teachings, such as Gwelx ye’enst (Gitanyow sustainability principle) have much to offer the creation of new provincial land and water protection measures for salmon, water and wildlife resources.”

Hadley Archer, executive director, Nature United –

“Public and private funding is critical to addressing the climate and biodiversity crises in B.C. and around the world. We applaud this announcement as an important step toward advancing nature-based climate solutions, financing Indigenous-led conservation and safeguarding B.C.’s rich biodiversity. Over the coming months, we look forward to amplifying the importance of this work and ensuring that these funds catalyze investments in community well-being and sustainable economic development.”

Quick Facts:

  • B.C. is home to the world’s largest salmon run, one-half of the world’s population of mountain goats and one-quarter of the world’s temperate rainforests, which are essential for the air everyone and everything breathes.
  • Old growth is defined as trees more than 250 years old on the coast, and more than 140 years or 250 years old in the Interior, depending on the type of forest.
  • There are about 11.1 million hectares of old growth in B.C., which covers approximately 12% of the entire province and 20% of B.C.’s forested land base.
  • The 2.4 million hectares currently deferred is in addition to the 3.8 million hectares of old growth that is permanently protected.
  • Currently, 18.5 million hectares – or about 20% of B.C.’s total land area – is protected and conserved, contributing to the 30%-by-2030 goal.

Learn More:

British Columbians can contribute to the fund through the BC Parks Foundation, by visiting: https://bcparksfoundation.ca/projects/bc-conservation-fund/

A backgrounder follows.

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