B.C. local government leaders have endorsed a message to the province that local and Indigenous governments have to be involved in decisions over old-growth logging, in a split vote that reflects the urban-rural tensions and continued protests on Vancouver Island.
Delegates to the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention voted 62 per cent in favour of the executive’s motion Wednesday, over the objections of those demanding sweeping logging bans. The province has supported Indigenous communities near Port Renfrew to defer more logging, but Premier John Horgan has insisted that communities, not protesters, will decide their economic future. Well-organized anti-logging activists have defied a court order to disrupt licensed harvesting in the region.
UBCM president Brian Frenkel, a Vanderhoof councillor, urged delegates to the virtual event to support the executive’s work to expand community forests, support value-added industry and meet the government’s commitments to Indigenous people.
Lake Cowichan Mayor Bob Day said his community is on the edge of the Fairy Creek dispute, which has continued for a year despite repeated calls by the Pacheedaht, Ditidaht and Huu-ay-aht First Nations for the protesters to leave.
“Just as it is with our First Nations, it’s important that we consult with the communities where forestry has built our communities to what they are today,” Day told the UBCM convention by video link. “And we still rely on them in a different way to keep us growing and vibrant. We look forward to seeing a sustainable industry well into the future.”
Nanaimo Coun. Ben Geselbracht said the UBCM executive doesn’t represent some UBCM members’ position, including a resolution from his council to move immediately to stop logging on all at-risk old-growth forests. The province has increased permits for old-growth harvest on the southern coast in a “talk and log” strategy, Geselbracht said.
Victoria Coun. Jeremy Loveday and Port Moody Mayor Rob Vagramov agreed, saying none of the seven resolutions submitted to the convention actually calls for more consultation. “The issue here is not that we are not being consulted enough, the issue is that the province is not listening,” Vagramov said.
Burns Lake Coun. Charlie Rensby noted that most Interior forests are a fire-based ecosystem where stands don’t typically last longer than 160 years. The province’s official definition of old growth is 250 years on the coast and 140 years in the Interior.
“To say that there should be blanket bans on old growth forest logging in the entire province is absolutely ridiculous,” Rensby said.