In Canada’s British Columbia forests, an online tracking system created to monitor at-risk forests has gone live.
As reported in the National Observer, Stand.earth’s online mapping system and database, Forest Eye, can identify and warn users about road construction and logging in the province’s most vulnerable old-growth forests.
This is possible using satellite imagery, remote sensing technology, and public data.
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Angeline Robertson asserts, “It will enable the public to monitor where old-growth forest is being logged and is designed to hold the Canadian province accountable for promises to reform forestry.”
- More information about Forest Eye is available here.
Robertson, the senior investigative researcher with Stand.earth, said, “The mapped logging alerts will pinpoint old-growth logging two to four weeks after it begins, identifying where, when and how much was cut and by which private forestry company.”
Most importantly, the Forest Eye will ascertain whether old-growth forests have been destroyed in areas under consideration for logging delays since 2020, when the BC government committed to changing its forestry strategy and implementing the independent old-growth strategic review recommendations.
“This tool is about revealing the actual mechanics of the [deferral] process and what it has meant on the ground,” Robertson said.
Since January 2020, Forest Eye has identified approximately 4000 hectares of old-growth logging, with more than 2600 ha of that total taking place in places where deferred logging is being proposed.
Robertson claimed that since Premier David Eby promised to “accelerate” action on old growth in his first 100 days in office, half of the potential deferral zones have been cleared for logging.
According to Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, the province has been repeatedly urged to fulfil its promise to protect the most endangered and rare old-growth forest and stop misleading the public about how much logging takes place in areas up for deferral.
“Tensions are rising in the face of climate change. Our forests are on fire, and each passing day is breaking worldwide heat records,” said Phillip, noting 1.4 million has of forest have been consumed by flames in British Columbia alone.
The province’s alleged efforts to increase transparency on logging operations were criticised by Robertson, who pointed out that the province could easily create and run a public system similar to Forest Eye and compile corporate logging proposals to help identify essential deferral areas before they are destroyed.
“A lot of our data comes from the government,” Roberston said. “What they provide publicly is not the fulsome dataset they probably have internally, so they could do this better.”
The recommendations from the old-growth review centred on immediately postponing logging in the most biologically diverse at-risk areas, protecting larger trees while collaborating with and involving First Nations and communities in forestry decisions, and enhancing public awareness and reporting in the industry.
The province’s deferral process has drawn criticism from conservation groups because it hasn’t yet disclosed how much of the 2.6 million hectares of the most valuable old-growth that were identified in 2021 for urgent deferrals are still standing or where and how much has been logged since promised change almost three years ago.