Inland temperate rainforest understory The Narwhal

Owls, caribou and B.C. forests on the chopping block

We examine how it seems to be business as usual for logging in the province despite vows to protect old-growth and endangered species

The headlines rang like alarm bells: B.C. old-growth forest cutblocks in critical caribou habitat up for B.C. government auction; the discovery of endangered spotted owls in a B.C. valley slated for logging; B.C. approving logging in a rare inland rainforest.

A month after the B.C.’s NDP government said it was acting on the dire findings of an old-growth forest report by “protecting” critical areas from logging — an announcement that came just as John Horgan’s party called an early election — it seems to be business as usual in the province. 

Caribou in the province have been dwindling every year, and now plans by the government to auction off logging permits in the Kootenays threaten to destroy habitat for an endangered herd said to have the best chance of survival in the region.

Over in B.C.’s Spuzzum Valley, a glimmer of hope emerged with the revelation that a pair of  breeding northern spotted owls have been discovered — the same owl species that had been presumed extinct in Canada. Then came the bad news: the valley they were found in is being logged as we speak.

That’s not to mention the fact that we’re only just finding out about it now, despite the fact that the owls were discovered by B.C. government biologists last year. “It’s either a really gross oversight or it’s intentional,” Spuzzum First Nation Chief James Hobart told The Narwhal’s Sarah Cox.

Advocates say a federal emergency order is needed to take powers out of the hands of provincial jurisdiction and halt logging in Spuzzum Valley after what they describe as decades of B.C. government forestry mismanagement.

Spotted Owl Logging BC Jared Hobbs

An adult northern spotted owl photographed outside the Spuzzum Valley. Photo: Jared Hobbs

You might recall that in the last B.C. election, the NDP pledged to enact standalone endangered species legislation. But the party has since backed away from that vow; there’s no mention of it in the NDP’s 2020 platform — just a vague promise to develop “new strategies” that would better protect wildlife.

And remember Canada’s forgotten rainforest? One of only three inland temperate rainforests in the world, it’s home to massive trees, endangered caribou and stores a huge amount of carbon — and now B.C. is allowing its ancient cedar and hemlock to be logged for wood pellets. They’ll be shipped overseas and used for heating and electricity, Matt Simmons reports.

It’s important to remember that these actions don’t exist in silos. Critics have long been flagging concerns about the state of old trees and endangered species in the province, dire situations that have often been accelerated by longstanding forestry policies.

In response to the old-growth report, the Horgan government said it was taking action by protecting nine areas from logging. But as Sarah found out in her reporting, this isn’t exactly true. B.C. has simply deferred logging in those areas for two years — and that’s without getting into the fact that some ancient forests listed for deferrals have already been clear cut.

You can go here to read about how the NDP’s past promises stack up against the current reality.

Take care,

Arik Ligeti
Audience Engagement Editor

This week in The Narwhal

Canada’s last breeding pair of endangered spotted owls found in valley slated for imminent logging

Logging spotted owl habitat Spuzzum Valley BC

By Sarah Cox

The federal government is legally obliged to respond to an Ecojustice petition calling for an emergency order to stop logging in the Spuzzum Valley, where two rare chicks hatched this year. Read more.

Alberta ranchers fear loss of grazing lands due to proposed coal mine

John Smith Livingston Range

By Piper Whelan

Public use of previously protected lands and the water quality of Oldman River have been threatened after Alberta rescinded its 44-year-old coal policy, paving the way for the Grassy Mountain Coal Project. Read more.  

Can Canada stymie the Trump administration’s plan to open an Arctic refuge to oil drilling?

Arctic National Wildlife Refuge Oil Drilling

By Julien Gignac

Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge was originally designed to be a … well, wildlife refuge. But a recent U.S. decision opens the remote wilderness to industrial development. Here’s how Canadians looking to protect Indigenous rights and a threatened caribou herd could hamper those plans. Read more.  

B.C. gives Pacific BioEnergy green light to log rare inland rainforest for wood pellets

Michelle Connolly

By Matt Simmons

A Prince George plant will grind ancient cedar and hemlock into pellets to be burned for fuel overseas, destroying a forest that’s home to endangered caribou and vast stores of carbon. Read more.

What we’re reading

Vancouver Sun Site dam C op-ed

New Democrats show every intention of getting through election without addressing any of legitimate concerns raised by Site C opponents, Vaughn Palmer writes.

New York Times article wool blankets

This Times piece explores how Indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest once bred dogs in large numbers and sheared them for wool.


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The Narwhal’s reporters are telling environment stories you won’t read about anywhere else. Stay in the loop by signing up for a weekly dose of independent journalism.