More than a quarter million people call on British Columbia government to save old-growth forests

Felled tree in British Columbia, Canada Grown over centuries, felled in minutes (© TJ Watt - Ancient Forest Alliance)

Oct 13, 2021

A Rainforest Rescue petition signed by more than 260,000 people from nearly every country in the world telling the government of the Canadian province of British Columbia to stop the felling of ancient giants and protect its temperate old-growth forests was delivered today.

The petition, which was supported by Sierra Club BC, was signed by residents of Europe, Canada, the U.S., Mexico, Russia, Indonesia, the Philippines, India, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Argentina, Columbia, Chile, Peru, Ecuador and almost all other countries in the world.

In addition to the petition, the B.C. government received an open letter today co-signed by Rainforest Rescue, Sierra Club BC and 37 NGOs from Asia, Africa, South and North America, Europe and Australia, just weeks ahead of COP26, the crucial UN climate conference kicking off in Glasgow on October 31, 2021.

The letter calls on the provincial government to keep its promise and safeguard the last remaining old-growth forests in B.C., “which are among the most endangered on the planet.”

“Deforestation and environmental destruction are a global catastrophe that is fueling the climate crisis and accelerating the sixth mass extinction of species. Unfortunately, the B.C. government is ignoring its global responsibility to protect some of the last old-growth forests in the Western hemisphere,” said Rainforest Rescue spokesperson Mathias Rittgerott.

“In many parts of the world, particularly in the global south, Indigenous Peoples are working tirelessly to protect the world’s forests. Many forest defenders are risking their lives, and some even losing their lives, for this greater good. Meanwhile, the B.C. government is bowing to the short-term economic interests of a few companies. We can’t fight the climate crisis and mass extinction without protecting the world’s forests. B.C. must do its share – or we will all fail,” added Rittgerott.

“The ravaging of the world’s remaining forest ecosystems irrespective of their location is a global pandemic that calls for localized global action across nations,” said Dr. Martins Egot, Executive Director of Development Concern in Nigeria.

Mapping and analysis by independent B.C. scientists shows that after decades of industrial clearcutting only a small fraction of old-growth forests with big trees and irrecoverable ecological, cultural and carbon values remains standing in B.C. and even less is protected from logging.

The B.C. government shared its Old-Growth Panel report and Premier John Horgan committed to implementing all of the panel’s recommendations in the fall of 2020. The panel called on the province to work with Indigenous governments to transform forest management within three years, including immediate action to protect at-risk old-growth forests and a paradigm shift away from a focus on timber value towards safeguarding biodiversity of all forests in B.C.

One year later, most at-risk forests in B.C. remain open to logging and despite repeated remarks from the provincial government about an end-of-summer announcement, concerned communities are still waiting for interim protection for all endangered old-growth. In the meantime, police violence and arrests continued on Southern Vancouver Island where arrests of forest defenders surpassed 1,100, making it Canada’s biggest-ever act of civil disobedience.

“There are few places in the world that could do so much to save old-growth forests, uphold the rights of Indigenous People, save biodiversity and slow down the climate crisis all at the same time. International petitions and letters are a powerful reminder that the world is watching the old-growth emergency in British Columbia, said Jens Wieting, Senior Forest and Climate Campaigner at Sierra Club BC. “The final weeks before the UN climate conference in Glasgow are a crucial time for the B.C. government to change course, show leadership and inspire other parts of the world to do the same.”