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Government's response to Forest Practices Board raises concerns for environmental group

Old-growth spruce stands "getting hammered," says Conservation North director
A log deck of old growth spruce in the Anzac watershed
A log deck of old growth spruce in the Anzac watershed.

Prince George-based environmental group Conservation North is giving a mixed review to the latest pronouncement on how the provincial government plans to deal with old growth forest in the Prince George timber supply area.

In December 2020, the Forest Practices Board called for a revamp of the way old growth forest is treated in the PGTSA. The public watchdog noted, in part, that it is one of the few in B.C. where the amount to be conserved is not specifically identified on maps, but as a percentage of the overall forest inventory. 

In a May 27 response to the FPB, a Ministry of Forests official said work has begun on identifying spots for deferral from logging that would last 2-3 years while also working on a longer-term land use plan.

Conservation North welcomed news that deferrals are in the offing but noted they will be based on regulations set out in an order that dates back to 2004 despite the FPB calling for it to be updated to reflect current science on biodiversity.

The group also raised concern that science will be left out of the equation as stakeholders negotiate the land-use plan.

“We are relieved that something is happening to slow biodiversity loss in our region, but we need to protect all old growth now for long-term ecological resilience, not just set aside a minimum amount,” Conservation North field director Sean O’Rourke said in a statement.

How soon the deferrals will come into effect remains vague. 

On Friday, a five-person panel to provide "science-based" advice on determining areas for deferral across B.C. was unveiled.

In making the announcement, Forests Minister Katrine Conroy said she hopes to see the first deferrals ready by this summer but would not say if any will be in the the Prince George TSA.

In a response to a request for comment from the Citizen, a forests ministry official said the plan is to "move as quickly as possible."

Areas protected will be located throughout the TSA, the official said.

"They will vary in size, but will be large enough to provide ecosystem protection and connect wildlife habitats. They will include a range of species and ages similar to the historical composition for that area."

In an interview, Conservation North director Michelle Connolly said she would like an emphasis on protecting the eastern end of the TSA where old growth spruce is "getting hammered."

More specifically, she named the Parsnip, Anzac, Hominka, Table and Walker as valleys in need of protection.