VANCOUVER – The Wilderness Committee, ForestEthics Solutions and Ecojustice are holding a media briefing outside the BC Supreme Court this morning to announce the filing of a lawsuit over the B.C. government’s failure to protect the Coastal Douglas-fir forests – known as the “Douglas-fir / Dull Oregon-grape plant community”.
The lawsuit attests that B.C.’s forestry laws require the BC Ministry of Environment and Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations to protect the remainder of these endangered forests and that, if the forests are to survive, all logging of this forest type must stop. The environmental groups are seeking a court order stating that the province has violated its own laws to protect these forests from extinction. The case is expected to be heard this year.
“This is a greenwash test case. The province brags that it has world-leading environmental laws. Clearly this is misleading, and it’s about time that the province put some teeth into environmental protection. We’re going to court to press for that,” said Valerie Langer, Director of B.C. Forest Conservation with ForestEthics Solutions.
B.C.’s Coastal Douglas-fir forests were formally designated for protection by the Ministry of Environment in 2006. However, logging of the remaining forests has continued for the last six years.
Reduced to fragmented pockets of mostly second-growth stands, these forests that once thrived on eastern Vancouver Island and parts of the Lower Mainland now teeter perilously close to elimination – the ecosystem equivalent of extinction. According to government documents, these forests are “almost gone,” with less than one per cent of old-growth forest intact due to years of successive logging and clearing for agriculture and human settlement.
The Coastal Douglas-fir forest used to be dominant in an area covering approximately 2,600 square kilometres. The B.C. Forest Practices Board has estimated that only 1,600 square kilometres still remains as forest, and that less than one per cent of that area remains in old-growth condition.
“This forest type is listed under B.C.’s forest laws as being at risk, but instead of being protected, the entire forest is being wiped out,” said Torrance Coste, the Wilderness Committee’s Vancouver Island Campaigner.
The B.C. government controls about nine per cent of all lands in the Coastal Douglas-fir forest (235 square kilometres). Recently, the province allowed logging in endangered Coastal Douglas-fir forest near Nanaimo, despite its purported protection under B.C.’s forestry laws. Local environmentalists have disputed this development, contending that the B.C. government cannot legally grant logging rights to the area.
“Do our laws say ‘protect the environment’ in one clause but in the next provide a loophole to legally destroy it? Or is the province legally required to protect these endangered forests and species?” said Devon Page, Executive Director of Ecojustice, whose lawyers are leading the case.
“If the government is breaking its own law, then we want the courts to make the province take action to protect the last of these endangered forests” he said.