Every day, we are seeing climate change impact people across B.C. in devastating ways. After a summer of terrifying wildfires, this fall we have faced unprecedented flooding.
There is no question that we need to take urgent and decisive action against climate change and towards ensuring people can enjoy life in B.C. for generations to come. And a key part of this is transforming B.C.’s forestry management system.
We know that healthy forests are home to incredible, biodiverse ecosystems that help reduce the consequences of climate change. And that’s why earlier this month, we announced our intention to defer 2.6 million hectares of old-growth forests in the province, in partnership with First Nations rights and titleholders. For context, this is almost the size of all of Vancouver Island. This includes all 900,000 hectares of ancient and remnant forest that the independent expert panel identified as most “at-risk,” and this is in addition to the 3.5 million hectares currently protected.
We have now introduced legislation to amend the Forest Act to ensure that First Nations, local communities, and smaller companies have opportunities in the forest sector. These amendments are a serious step towards our vision of a forestry sector in which our oldest and most ancient trees are protected, workers and communities benefit from innovative and secure jobs, and Indigenous people are full partners in sustainable forest management.
We are moving past decades of inaction and an inefficient system, towards true reconciliation and stability for communities. Building meaningful partnerships and listening to First Nations rights and title holders before making decisions is a key priority for our government.
And by providing comprehensive supports, including skills training and employment opportunities in the short term, I am confident that impacted workers and communities will feel the benefits of diversified economies and a transition away from the boom-and-bust cycle in the long run.
As your MLA, and previously as your local MP, I heard widely from people across Victoria and in Oak Bay-Gordon Head who care deeply about preserving vital ecosystems and sharing the benefits of our forests with local communities, not private corporate interests. The steps our government is taking will help preserve our province’s beauty, protect against climate change, and build a stronger B.C. moving forward.
Murray Rankin is the MLA for Oak Bay-Gordon Head.