VANCOUVER — A B.C. Supreme Court decision has undermined claims that B.C.’s forestry laws are among the strongest in the world, environment groups said today.
The B.C. Supreme Court has ruled that the government of British Columbia is not obligated by the Forest and Range Practices Act (FRPA) to protect B.C.’s remaining endangered old-growth Coastal Douglas-fir ecosystems or any other species at risk.
“The court has confirmed what conservationists have been saying for years, that the FRPA doesn’t protect species at risk in any meaningful way,” said Torrance Coste, Vancouver Island Campaigner for the Wilderness Committee. “The B.C. government likes to say that it has strong laws and sustainable forest practices, but the court’s ruling has just exposed those claims as a sham.”
Ecojustice lawyers represented the Wilderness Committee and ForestEthics Solutions in this lawsuit, which alleged the provincial government violated its own law by failing to protect the remaining patches of Coastal Douglas-fir from continued logging.
The Coastal Douglas-fir forest once dominated an area covering almost 2,600 square kilometres. According to government data, only 2.75 square kilometres — an area smaller than Stanley Park — remain in old-growth condition.
“This judgement on Coastal Douglas-fir confirms the deep systemic problems in B.C.’s forest management and shows that it is anything but sustainable,” said Valerie Langer, Conservation Director for ForestEthics Solutions. “Gone is any credibility with eco-minded companies that have been purchasing B.C. timber because of its ‘sustainability.'”
The Coastal Douglas-fir is one of the more than 1,900 at-risk species found in B.C., which is also one of the only provinces in Canada without a standalone endangered species law.
“The court’s ruling indicates that we cannot rely on existing laws like FRPA to protect species at risk,” said Morgan Blakley, staff lawyer at Ecojustice. “It’s time for B.C. to introduce a standalone endangered species law to ensure our forests aren’t logged to extinction and iconic species like the mountain caribou and spotted owl are able to recover.”
B.C. is home to 75 per cent of Canada’s bird species, 70 per cent of its freshwater fish species and 66 per cent of its butterfly species. Currently, 87 per cent of species at risk in B.C. don’t receive any protection under provincial or federal laws.
The groups are considering whether to appeal the decision.