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e-2914 (Environment)

E-petition
Initiated by Victor Brice from Nanaimo, British Columbia

Original language of petition: English

Petition to the Government of Canada

Whereas:
  • British Columbia’s coastal valley-bottom old-growth forests with very large trees are endangered due to industrial logging;
  • ‘Old-growth forests’ describes forests that contain trees that are more than 250 years old;
  • These forests are rich and diverse ecosystems that support endangered plants and wildlife;
  • Protecting old-growth forests is essential for Indigenous cultural practices and maintaining biodiversity;
  • We are in a climate crisis;
  • Old-growth forests are instrumental for keeping carbon out of our atmosphere, and for flood and fire mitigation;
  • Large-scale industrial logging is not sustainable;
  • Old-growth forests are not a renewable resource;
  • 75% of B.C.’s old-growth forests, including thousand year old trees, have already been logged;
  • Only 3% of B.C.’s original forests with very big, and very old trees remain;
  • According to independent research, the amount of old-growth forests is misrepresented by BC government reports, because the government includes non-productive and small tree sub-alpine forests as ‘old-growth’;
  • These types of forests are not BC’s iconic old-growth forests with very large trees;
  • Forestry falls under provincial jurisdiction;
  • The provincial government is responsible for sustainably managing forests;
  • The federal Minister for Environment and Climate Change has a mandate to protect our environment, conserve our natural heritage, and ensure a clean, safe and sustainable environment for present and future generations; and
  • Protecting old-growth forests should fall under this mandate.
We, the undersigned, citizens and residents of Canada, call upon the Government of Canada to:
1. Request that the Minister of Environment and Climate Change work with the provinces on protecting valley bottom, high productivity old-growth forests with large trees; and
2. Introduce federal legislation that protects all old-growth forests.

Response by the Minister of Natural Resources

Signed by (Minister or Parliamentary Secretary): Mr. Marc G. Serré

The Government of Canada thanks the petitioners for expressing their views regarding British Columbia’s forests.

Canada’s 347 million hectares of forest make up 9% of the world’s forests. The forest area of Canada is stable, with less than half of 1% of Canada's forest lands harvested annually. That is significantly smaller than the areas burned by wildfires or affected by insects, which is just under  5.5%.

Forests benefit Canadians environmentally through the range of ecosystem services they provide. They preserve soils, cycle nutrients and support biodiversity. They also act as natural cleansers, filtering pollutants from air and water. Forests are sustainably managed in Canada so that they can continue to provide social, cultural and ecological benefits, while also providing goods such as wood and other forest products to Canadians. Canada’s highly-integrated forest sector uses virtually every fibre from each tree it harvests so that waste and residues are themselves turned into useful products. In 2019, the forest sector provided more than 200,000 jobs for Canadians, including about 12,000 jobs for Indigenous people, and it was the primary source of economic well-being for roughly 300 communities across Canada. As recognized during the COVID pandemic, forest sector services and products are essential to Canadians. Producing, for example, the pulp used to make medical masks, hospital gowns, sanitary wipes and toilet paper.

On behalf of the Government of Canada, the Canadian Forest Service at the Department of Natural Resources Canada works closely with provinces and territories on the sustainable management of forest resources. Natural Resources Canada is responsible for international trade in forest products and the management of federal lands and federal parks. In Canada, sustainable forest management decisions and activities are based on scientific research, rigorous planning processes and public and stakeholder consultation. Natural Resources Canada provides science expertise that advances understanding of forest ecosystems and actively informs forest management practices to ensure they are sustainable.   

About 90% of Canada’s forests, by area, are located on provincial and territorial Crown lands. In British Columbia (B.C.), the province owns about 96% of the forested land base. As per the Constitution Act, 1867, forest management on these lands falls under the purview of provincial governments. The provinces have exclusive powers to develop and enforce their legislation, standards and programs to ensure the development, conservation and management of forest resources. Although rules, regulations, and policies that guide forest management vary from one province and territory to another, they are all based on the principles of sustainable forest management. By law, the forest industry must renew and maintain all harvested areas to provide for the sustainability of Crown forests. In addition to Canada’s strict forest laws, Canada has the largest area of third-party certified forests in the world. In B.C., over 51 million hectares of its forests are certified as sustainable.

The Canadian Council of Forest Ministers (CCFM), established in 1985, is composed of federal, provincial, and territorial Ministers responsible for forests. In 2020, the CCFM released a long-term strategic vision for Canada’s forests that reaffirms the country’s commitment to sustainable forest management. Its ultimate goal is to make Canada a global leader in sustainable forest management and innovation.

Canada’s strong system of forest laws, monitoring, and enforcement ensures sustainable forest management practices across the country.

Response by the Minister of Environment and Climate Change

Signed by (Minister or Parliamentary Secretary): The Honourable JONATHAN WILKINSON

Environment and Climate Change Canada would like to thank the petitioners for their interest in Canadian forests and forest ecosystems, in particular the old growth forests and habitats found in British Columbia (B.C.).

Canada’s forests, and in particular B.C’.s old growth forests, are rich with biodiversity and provide important habitat for a range of wildlife. For example, B.C.’s old growth forests provide habitat for numerous species of migratory birds and species at risk including Marbled Murrelet, Spotted Owl, Southern Mountain Caribou, and many others.  

In addition to these habitat functions, forests are key to the health of our climate influencing rainfall, temperature, and other metrics. Temperate old growth forests, like those in B.C., also function as important carbon reservoirs.

Appreciating the significance of forests to biodiversity conservation and climate, the federal government has contributed to protecting nearly 400,000 ha of forest habitat in B.C. This includes conservation projects under programs such as the Target 1 Challenge, Natural Heritage Conservation Program, Ecological Gifts Program, and others.

At the same time, the federal government has made forests a central part of Canada’s plan to tackle climate change. Climate-focused efforts include work with partners across the country to plant two billion trees, and explore a variety of other nature-based climate solutions. The federal government is also working to protect 25% of our lands and waters by 2025, and consideration will be given to including more old growth forests as protected areas through this process.

The federal government is also working to ensure forests, including old growth forests, are considered in the context of ongoing species at risk and nature-related engagement with provincial and territorial partners. For example, Environment and Climate Change Canada, provinces, territories, Indigenous peoples and stakeholders are engaged in the development of a forest sector action plan that will help guide collaborative efforts to recover species at risk under the Pan Canadian Approach to Species at Risk. 

These climate and nature cooperation plans and priorities aside, it should nevertheless be noted that approximately 96% of B.C.’s forests are on provincial crown land. Under the Constitution Act, 1867, forest management on those lands is within the jurisdiction of the B.C. provincial government. In this context, most forest habitat for species at risk in B.C. is also under provincial management.

With this in mind, the Government of B.C. commissioned an Old Growth Strategic Review in 2019 to assess the province’s state of old growth management through environmental, social, cultural, and economic lenses. The Review was published in September 2020.The petitioners are encouraged to engage with the Government of B.C. to discuss further the province’s plans for implementation of the Review’s recommendations, and other activities in the area of B.C.’s mature and old growth forests and ecosystems.

Open for signature
October 22, 2020, at 4:35 p.m. (EDT)
Closed for signature
December 21, 2020, at 4:35 p.m. (EDT)
Presented to the House of Commons
Paul Manly (Nanaimo—Ladysmith)
March 26, 2021 (Petition No. 432-00751)
Government response tabled
May 10, 2021
Photo - Paul Manly
Nanaimo—Ladysmith
Green Party Caucus
British Columbia
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