VANCOUVER — Hearings are set to continue Thursday in a case to determine whether the government of British Columbia is bound by law to protect the province’s endangered old-growth Coastal Douglas-fir ecosystem.
“This ecosystem has been nearly wiped out by logging practices and now the province has a legal obligation to preserve what little is left,” said Devon Page, Ecojustice Executive Director. “We’re here to make sure B.C.’s forestry laws are upheld, for the sake of the forest and the many wildlife species that rely on it.”
Ecojustice lawyers are representing the Wilderness Committee and ForestEthics Solutions in this lawsuit, filed in B.C. Supreme Court in May 2013. The Coastal Douglas-fir forest once dominated an area covering approximately 2,600 square kilometres. But after decades of logging, the B.C. Forest Practices Board estimates that only 1,600 square kilometres still remain. And according to government data, only about 2.75 square kilometres — an area smaller than Stanley Park — remain in old-growth condition.
“It’s frustrating that we’re forced to take the province to court to defend the tiny remainder of such a rare and important ecosystem – one the government’s own scientists say needs protection,” said Torrance Coste, Vancouver Island Campaigner for the Wilderness Committee. “The status of this ecosystem is a stark example of the utter mismanagement of forests in B.C.”
The B.C. government controls about nine per cent of all lands in the Coastal Douglas-fir forest, and despite its purported protection under B.C.’s forestry laws, the province recently allowed logging in a forest of this type near Nanaimo. An affidavit from former long-time Ministry of Forests employee Mary Jo Hamey, who rang the alarm bell on logging in this endangered ecosystem, forms part of the evidence submitted by the groups.
“If the government is breaking its own law, then we need the courts to take action to make sure these iconic forests don’t go the way of the dodo,” said Valerie Langer, B.C. Conservation Director for ForestEthics Solutions.