The Shuswap Environmental Action Society will host a rally at Salmon Arm’s Ross Street Plaza on Friday, Sept. 18. Participants will be calling on the province to improve forest policy with a focus on a healthy ecosystem and community involvement in forest management. (Jim Cooperman photo)

Forestry policy, old growth focus of upcoming Salmon Arm rally

Shuswap residents to join other communities in day of protest

Shuswap residents will be part of a provincewide rally calling for better management of B.C.’s forests.

Rallies will be held in 16 communities throughout the province on Friday, Sept. 18, with participants calling for improvements to current forest policies to ensure ecosystem health is the priority, to revive community participation in forest management and to restore government oversight of forestry.

The Shuswap Environmental Action Society (SEAS) will host a noon rally at the Ross Street Plaza in Salmon Arm. COVID-19 safety measures in place.

Explaining the need for the protest, SEAS president Jim Cooperman explained problems with forest management in British Columbia have gone from bad to worse, as what little old-growth forest that remains continues to be logged at unsustainable rates.

“Former forestry-dependent communities are reeling as mills are shuttered, jobs lost, whole logs are exported, water supplies are trashed and floods and landslides destroy homes and livelihoods,” said Cooperman. “People are fed up and see this protest as one way to get the message out to the wider public.”

Read more: B.C. suspends some old-growth logging, consults communities

Read more: What exactly is ‘old growth’ B.C. forest, and how much is protected?

To participate in the event, everyone is encouraged to bring a sign and wear green.

In addition to speeches and live music by local songwriter and playwright Linz Kenyon, there will be a short play by the Salmon Arm Actors’ Studio entitled, The Lumberjack’s Dilemma.

Using humour, Salmon Arm Actors’ studio director and playwright James Bowlby wrote the script that explores many of the concerns with ongoing forest mismanagement, and ends with a twist. Three actors, Teresa McKerral, Ryley Crouse and Dylan Taylor are in the production.

On Sept. 11, the B.C. government announced a new plan to protect old growth forests that includes logging deferrals on 353,000 hectares. However, Cooperman said there were flaws to the proposed approach, calling the province’s plan to reverse the ongoing biodiversity crisis “smoke and mirrors.” He said the government was more concerned about the interests of corporations than improving environmental protection and following the advice of scientists.

An analysis of the areas shows that most of the land now under deferral does not consist of high quality old growth and instead includes some second growth and low productivity forests. As well, there is no timetable or commitment for implementing the 14 recommendations in the old growth forest report released on the same day.

On Sept. 11, Forests Minister Doug Donaldson released a report by independent experts, and said he plans to put an end to a “patchwork approach” of old forest preservation that caused a loss of biodiversity. The report identified nine areas containing old-growth forests ( where further logging would be delayed for consultation with Indigenous communities in each region.

According to Donaldson, the province defines old growth as 250 years old in the Coast region, and 140 years old in the Interior. Overall, about 13.7 million hectares, or 23 per cent of the total B.C. forest base is considered old growth and 3.75 million hectares, 27 per cent of the old growth, may be harvested, Donaldson said.

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