Conservationists disappointed Budget 2020 fails to prioritize environmental protection despite climate and biodiversity emergencies

Published: February 19, 2020
Posted in: Media Release
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Victoria, BC – The Ancient Forest Alliance is disappointed the NDP government’s third provincial budget, released yesterday, once again fails to allocate even modest funding for the protection of endangered old-growth forests and other ecosystems.

“Despite the ecological and climate crisis engulfing BC’s ancient forests, the NDP government’s 2020 budget is bereft of meaningful solutions that would protect forest ecosystems while supporting communities,” stated forest campaigner Andrea Inness. “For example, there is still no funding for a desperately-needed provincial land acquisition fund to protect endangered ecosystems on private lands or to support new and existing (but unrecognized) Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas in BC.”

“The province also failed to increase funding for land-use planning modernization (an inadequate $16 million over three years was committed in 2018), support the economic diversification of First Nations communities, and to read and align with the environmental concerns of the times.”

The Ancient Forest Alliance, other conservation groups, and approximately a hundred thousand concerned BC residents have called on the province to take swift and meaningful action to protect old-growth forests in recent years. In addition, a recent Sierra Club BC opinion poll shows that 92% of British Columbians support increased protection of old-growth forests. 

With respect to private lands in BC, last year, 17 conservation and recreation groups and hundreds of British Columbians sent submissions to the BC government’s Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services, calling for dedicated funding for the purchase and protection of private lands of high conservation, scenic, and recreational value in Budget 2020.

“Apparently the wishes of the majority of British Columbians have fallen on deaf ears,” stated campaigner TJ Watt. “The NDP government is playing it safe in this budget and is catering to single-use special interest groups despite the urgent need for bold action on climate change, biodiversity protection, and truly sustainable economic development that upholds Indigenous rights and title.” 

In its budget, the BC government allocates $13 million over three years for the revitalization of the forest sector, including new and better forest inventory activities, improving forest management planning and stewardship in collaboration with First Nations, investing in bioenergy, and expanding economic opportunities. It falls short of a commitment to support the expedited transition to a sustainable, value-added, second-growth forest industry in BC, which is urgently needed to maintain forestry jobs, support communities, and allow for the protection of old-growth forests.

It also states that the forests ministry will be improving forest practices while providing more predictability to industry and that the government’s focus is on planting more trees and utilizing more fibre. There is no mention in the budget of any intention to increase protected areas or invest in environmental conservation in BC. 

“Making minor legislative adjustments and planting trees isn’t good enough,” stated Watt. “These measures equate to maintaining the status quo liquidation of old-growth forests and the continued loss of species and endangered ecosystems.”

“That the BC government failed to fund old-growth protection and sustainable economic development in Clayoquot Sound is particularly disappointing, especially after the federal government last year committed matching funds for the implementation of the Tla-o-qui-aht and Ahousaht land-use visions, which set the vast majority of those Nations’ territories in Clayoquot Sound aside from industrial development,” stated Inness.

 “The NDP government has a unique opportunity right now to obtain matching funds from the federal government’s $1.3 billion investment in conservation partnerships and protected area expansion. They’re missing a golden opportunity to purchase and protect private lands and support Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas.”

“The province is projecting a $227 million surplus this fiscal year. Why isn’t any of this money being used to protect natural lands while also diversifying First Nations economies?”

Background information

The Ancient Forest Alliance is calling on the BC government to implement a series of policy changes to protect endangered old-growth forests, including a comprehensive, science-based plan similar to the ecosystem-based management approach used in the Great Bear Rainforest; a dedicated provincial land acquisition fund to protect private lands of high conservation, scenic, and recreation value, including old-growth forests; conservation financing support for First Nations communities in lieu of old-growth logging; support for new and existing Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas; and regulations and incentives to accelerate the transition to a sustainable, value-added, second-growth forest industry in BC.

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