The time of talking about protecting old-growth is over — actually doing it is the only thing that’s acceptable now.
Last year, the BC government responded to the pressure you I have built over decades and ordered a review of this province’s broken forest policies. That review culminated in an independent expert report, A New Future for Old Forests, released in September 2020. The report slams BC’s current status quo as unsustainable, and calls for a full paradigm shift in the way forests are managed — both of which have been key messages of the Wilderness Committee since its beginning.
This report represents the throwing down of the gauntlet. We need -- and have -- a plan to ensure permanent protection for BC's remaining old growth forests. Right now, our task now is to build the pressure necessary to make the government follow through, and to bring our steadfast position to the policy-making table to see not just immediate protection, but permanent change.
It’s time to reimagine our relationship with forests and commit to understanding and treating them as complex ecosystems with hundreds of important values, not just sources of timber and fibre. Industry and government push back on calls for old-growth protection by stating that conservation must be balanced with economic needs. In reality, the chance to achieve this balance passed decades ago — the majority of old-growth has been clear-cut, logging companies have trampled Indigenous rights time after time, and several forest-dependent species like the marbled murrelet and southern mountain caribou have been pushed to the brink of extinction. What’s needed is fundamental change to the way the government approaches forests.
We’re creating the momentum necessary to ensure the government is held accountable for its promises to protect old growth and push them to truly prioritize the needs of forests and their ecosystems. Following the leadership of First Nations, a future with healthy forests, protected species, and vibrant communities is possible — what’s needed to realize this possibility is the political will and that’s what we’re building.
Will you consider a donation today to help us strike while the iron is hot and ensure we protect remaining forest ecosystems before it’s too late?
What will we do?
Our immediate task is to make both the public and decision-makers aware that our ability to protect old-growth has an expiration date — if we take years to do this, too much will be lost in the meantime. The COVID-19 pandemic requires us to be bolder and more creative than ever in our efforts to monitor the state of old-growth forests, document current logging operations that continue while the government waits to act, and bring these stories to people where they’re at.
Our unique field program provides us the opportunity to be out on the land and to ensure critical “hotspots” get the attention and call for protection they deserve. Be it areas where temporary logging deferrals have been declared, areas slated for future clearcutting or places where active old-growth logging is taking place, we get our boots on the ground and then make thoughtful informed demands. Our connections with Indigenous leaders, community members, local organizations and municipal leaders allow us to work in partnership on unceded lands and ensure a forest management system that values reconciliation, biodiversity and workers. Our experienced campaign team members, often joined by experts, allies, or volunteers, equips us with the support we need to gather the latest information, photos and videos to produce effective communications and educational materials that reach people across British Columbia and Canada and compel them to stand with us for ancient forests.
The BC government’s old-growth review has proposed a 36-month strategy paradigm shift in management with 14 recommendations and a series of actions. The Wilderness Committee will work in lockstep during this period to engage and mobilize the public to ensure the government not only implements the panel’s recommendations, but initiates the paradigm shift required for these ancient forest ecosystems to survive.
To achieve this goal, the Wilderness Committee will work within five focus areas:
Highlighting What’s at Stake
Critical to winning this fight is to show the public exactly what’s happening on the ground: old-growth is being logged daily and government action to date hasn’t changed this. Utilizing photography and videography, and regularly updated GIS mapping, we’ll bring the forests — and the clearcuts — to everyone. We will employ all platforms, including social and earned media, our website, online story map and email list, to tell the story and paint a clear picture. We’ll also communicate what the report’s fourteen recommendations entail, and what implementing them effectively actually requires.
Supporting First Nations and Communities
All forests grow on the territories of a First Nation. Uplifting the efforts of Indigenous and rural communities is key to getting permanent protection for these ecosystems. Through outreach and relationship building, we’ll strengthen and expand existing partnerships, and establish new ones. Working together on a range of projects, from trail building expeditions to legal cases to events and publications, we’ll ensure Indigenous and community voices are amplified and the diversity and strength of the campaign to protect old-growth is highlighted.
Mobilizing the Public
The popular desire to see old-growth protected is strong and getting stronger each day — our task is to channel it. Using the best and most effective digital action tools and organizing tactics, we will make it easy, empowering and fun for people to speak up and demand change, and to become someone their elected representative cannot ignore. It’s been citizens standing up for old-growth that has forced the BC government to admit there is a problem, and it will be those same citizens who pressure the government to solve it.
Making the Link Between Forests and Species
In addition to decades of campaigning on old-growth, the Wilderness Committee is also a leading organization in the fight to save endangered species in BC. From the southern mountain caribou to the marbled murrelet, if at-risk species are to recover they need intact old-growth forest habitat. Using field expeditions to key endangered species with partners, First Nations and scientists, communication tools and online actions, our work to protect old-growth encompasses this critical angle.
In the last several years, the Wilderness Committee has built inroads with decision-makers on old-growth, from provincial government staffers to ministers. In the coming months and years, in partnership with our allies, we will advance these relationships to represent our supporters and the public and advocate for just and sound old-growth policies.
How much will it cost?
The Wilderness Committee is truly people powered. The organization is funded nearly 100% by individual donors like you. From events and rallies, community meetings, and door-to-door canvassing, we engage with tens of thousands of people at a grassroots level each year on critical environmental issues facing us all and supporters give what they can, when they can.
COVID-19 has taken its toll. Our door-to-door outreach was replaced by phone calls and face-to-face events were replaced by zoom meetings. We are honoured by donors who’ve continued to support us and those who’ve stepped up their support when others have been unable to. However, our canvassing program has taken a fundraising hit of $222,000 since the beginning of our fiscal year on May 1, 2020.
We expect the following annual costs to be relatively similar each year over the three years of the Ancient Forests campaign. The total cost for the three year period is estimated at $600,000, with the following annual breakdown:
- Vancouver Island Campaigner: Engagement, expeditions, research, government relations, and advocacy. $80,000
- Mainland BC Campaign Staff: Engagement, expeditions, research, government relations, and advocacy. $50,000
- Field Expeditions and Trailbuilding: Travel to research, monitor and document on-the-ground in old-growth forests, deferral areas, hot spots for protection. Complete Trailbuilding trips with volunteers to clear and build trails through at-risk wilderness areas. $15,000
- Mapping, Videos & Communications: Updated maps, research and numbers on old-growth forests, species habitat, proposed and active logging. Video production from expeditions to engage public, for communication & action tools. $40,000
- Campaign Activities: Year one shaped by COVID-19 restrictions, with virtual events, materials & online tools, ie StoryMaps. Onsite actions and events as it becomes safe to do so. Legal engagement as strategic, on species habitat threats $15,000
So far, we've raised $50,000 - the Garfield Weston Foundation has stepped up with this initial donation to support this work in 2021. Your contribution today will help sustain our work for the long term. Will you join us in investing in the Wilderness Committee's Fund for Ancient Forests today?
As we roll out these activities, we expect expanded awareness of the actual state of old-growth forests and increased public momentum on protecting what remains. This increase in momentum and cumulative action, combined with partnerships and support for First Nations and Indigenous groups, and concerted efforts to advance the government’s implementation of their Old-Growth Strategic Review recommendations, will result in escalated pressure on government and concrete steps toward the paradigm shift we need. Our goal is nothing less than permanent protection for critical forest areas and species habitats across the province of BC.
With your investment, together we'll see:
- Expanded awareness of old-growth in all communications media that will increase pressure for protection
- Increased public engagement and mobilized momentum that will build the case for action and change - from petitions to public events and partnerships
- Permanent Protection for all threatened old-growth areas - both existing deferral (identified by government) areas and the old-growth hot spots and at-risk species habitat we and our partners have identified
The Wilderness Committee has been nearly 100% donor-funded in every year of its operations. With your help, we look forward to carrying on this accountable, grassroots tradition of action for the wild ancient forests of British Columbia.
We look forward to you joining us.