Old Growth Management Tools
Canada Target 1 – Conservation 2020
In 2010, the international Convention on Biological Diversity adopted a range of targets, including the protection of 17% of the world’s terrestrial lands and inland waters by 2020. Canada, along with provincial and territorial governments, committed to this goal. Lands that contribute to this target include “parks, protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures”.
In addition to the provincial park and protected area system, B.C. protects national parks and reserves, national wildlife areas and bird sanctuaries, privately held conservation lands, regional district watersheds, wildlife management areas, old growth management areas, wildlife habitat areas and wildland areas. Many of these areas that exclude mineral, oil and gas development contribute to the goal. Currently in B.C., about 20.8% of terrestrial and inland waters contribute to Target 1.
Of the 13.2 million hectares of old-growth forests in the province, about 4.4 million hectares (33%) are protected in:
- national parks
- provincial parks
- ecological reserves
- wildlife habitat ranges
- ungulate winter ranges
- private conservation lands
- regional water supply areas
- wildlife management areas
- old growth management areas
- visual quality objective retention areas
Map of protected and not protected areas. Click to enlarge.
Parks and Protected Areas
British Columbia’s protected areas system provides for the protection and maintenance of old-growth forests. The system protects ecological and cultural values and outdoor recreation opportunities.
Protected areas contain some of the best representative elements of British Columbia’s natural and cultural heritage. They include:
- ecological reserves
- provincial parks
- recreation areas
- protected areas established under the Environment and Land Use Act
The Forest and Range Practices Act (FRPA) guides how forest and range practices are conducted on Crown land in B.C., while protecting plants, animals and ecosystems.
All forest and range licensees’ activities are governed by FRPA and its regulations during all stages of planning, road building, logging, reforestation and grazing.
Eleven resource values are identified and protected under FRPA:
- Cultural Heritage
- Fish / Riparian Areas
- Forage and Associated Plant Communities
- Resource Features
- Visual Quality
- Water Quality
The B.C. government classifies and manages forests on an ecosystem-specific basis. B.C.’s biogeoclimatic zone classification system includes 14 broad zones. Each zone is divided into smaller subzones and variants, based on climate conditions.
Monitoring and Evaluation
The B.C. government collects and communicates the best available natural resource monitoring information.
This information is collected through a series of data collection protocols that are designed and delivered under the Forest and Range Evaluation Program.
Laws, regulations and policies regarding natural resource management usually focus on a specific sector – such as forestry, mining, or oil and gas. Written environmental assessments consider cumulative effects when evaluating large projects. However, many proposals are relatively small and do not require such an assessment.
British Columbia’s approach to dealing with a range of different projects is called the Cumulative Effects Framework. This framework is a set of policies, procedures and decision-support tools designed to identify and manage cumulative effects consistently and transparently across British Columbia’s natural resource sector.
Land Use Planning
Ninety-four percent of British Columbia is comprised of provincial public land. The purpose of land use planning is to set strategic directions to guide sustainable resource stewardship and management of provincial public land and waters that meets economic, environmental, social, and cultural objectives.
Existing land use plans, some of which are decades old, cover over 90% of provincial public land. In 2018, the B.C. government committed $16 million over three years to work collaboratively with Indigenous governments, communities, and stakeholders to modernize land use planning.
Land use planning sets broad objectives for appropriate activities on the land base. Implementation may include the establishment of legally binding old growth management areas and supports economic opportunities by increasing certainty for those who operate on the land.
Old Growth Management Areas
B.C. uses Old Growth Management Areas as mechanisms for protecting or attaining old-growth forests. Legal objectives for old growth forest retention are in place for forested Crown land throughout B.C., either spatially defined in old growth management areas, or through non-spatial, landscape-level targets that are applied within Forest Stewardship Plans.
- Spatial Old Growth Management Areas map specific areas containing forests to be managed for old growth. Old growth is selected first. Where there are insufficient old-growth forests to meet a target, the next-oldest forest is selected. This is called recruitment.
- Non-spatial Old Growth Management sets the percentage of old growth and recruitment to be retained in a broad area, without mapping specific patches of old growth.
The intent of ecosystem-based management is to have functional and intact ecosystems, while ensuring that residents can continue to work and make a living in the area. Ecosystem-based management plans strive for social well-being and economic health, while operating within ecosystem limits.
The Great Bear Rainforest covers 6.4 million hectares on British Columbia’s north and central coast. B.C. manages ecological integrity and human well-being in the Great Bear Rainforest through ecosystem-based management. Collaboration among First Nations, the B.C. government, environmental groups and forest companies has helped protect 85% of the area’s forests, many of which are not included in the 4.4 million hectares of provincial protected old-growth forest.
Ecosystem-based management is also applied in Haida Gwaii and Clayoquot Sound.
Iconic Tree Protection
The B.C. government is protecting some of the province’s largest trees as the first step in a new and comprehensive approach to old-growth management. In July 2019, the government protected 54 exceptionally large and old trees – each surrounded by a one-hectare grove to act as a buffer zone – under Part 13 of the Forest Act (designated areas). The government is considering ways to permanently protect exceptionally large trees.