New forest surveillance system exposes ongoing old growth logging in British Columbia, amid ongoing calls for transparency
July 20, 2023
Stand.earth Research Group’s ‘Forest Eye’ combines government data with remote sensing and satellite imagery to send the public alerts about recent logging in old growth forests in proposed deferral areas
xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish) and səl̓ílwətaʔɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Territories (Vancouver, BC) – Award-winning researchers launched a bespoke data mapping tool today exposing the state of of old growth logging in British Columbia.
Forest Eye is a first-of-its-kind public tool for B.C., designed based on systems that track illegal logging in tropical rainforests. The B.C. government and major logging companies have been put on notice that old growth logging across the province will be surveilled, documented, and publicly shared.
The new tool, developed by Stand.earth Research Group, was released online today, and features a live map and database that will be continuously updated to share public alerts about forest destruction. Forest Eye uses government data on logging permits and old growth, in combination with remote sensing and satellite imagery, to detect and confirm logging and road-building in the most at-risk old growth forests.
The Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) and Stand.earth have repeatedly called on the Province to fulfill its commitment to protect the most rare and at-risk old growth, while also countering consistent attempts by the B.C. government to deceive the public about the scale of ongoing logging in proposed old growth deferrals. With the continued failure of the provincial government to deliver on its promise to provide timely and accessible information, Forest Eye will ensure transparency about continued old growth forest destruction.
“Tensions are rising in the face of climate change. Our forests are on fire and each passing day is breaking worldwide heat records,” said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs. “Over 10 million hectares in Canada have already been affected by wildfires including 1.4 million hectares in BC. There are currently 382 active wildfires in BC alone. This is not sustainable for human existence and colonial and industrial greed must be held accountable or else face catastrophic consequences. Our earth and our trees need more protections because we are losing them at an unacceptable rate due to logging and constant wildfires. This tracker is just one way that we can hold corporate greed to account, and we applaud Stand.earth for taking a stand.”
Forest Eye alerts include information about when and where logging and road-building occurred, the private logging companies responsible, the size of the area cleared, and whether the area was mapped as a candidate for deferral. Alerts will be searchable online, available to email subscribers, and shared on social media.
“For the first time, we’re using landmark satellite surveillance technology to turn an eye on the logging practices in these forests,” said Angeline Robertson, Senior Researcher for Stand.earth Research Group and Forest Eye lead. “Forest Eye means the biggest culprits in the ongoing destruction of old growth forests will be exposed to the World, and communities will have access to the information they need to take action.”
Forest Eye has already detected over 1,300 hectares of candidate old growth deferrals logged since Premier David Eby pledged to “accelerate” action on old growth early in his term. Just two months away from the end of the three year implementation timeline for the Old Growth Strategic Review, not one of the 14 recommendations that the provincial government promised to implement have been fulfilled.
“As the climate crisis worsens and communities are increasingly threatened by megafires, floods, and slides, the importance of keeping old growth forests standing has never been more clear,” said Tegan Hansen, Senior Forest Campaigner at Stand.earth. “This new tool will give communities the information they need to hold Premier Eby and his government accountable, and ultimately keep old growth forests from falling.”
In order to deliver on his promise to accelerate action on old growth, Premier Eby must:
- Immediately stop logging in at-risk old growth forests, including the areas mapped by the Old Growth Technical Advisory Panel, especially where logging and road building is continuing, as well as additional areas that meet the criteria for at-risk old growth and any areas identified by First Nations.
- Provide full and urgent financial support to First Nations to ensure deferrals are economically viable, including compensation for revenue-sharing agreements and employment, and work with the federal government to secure a substantial increase in funding to support Indigenous-led land use planning and protection.
- Ensure fully accessible and transparent information about forests and logging – including by releasing updated maps and data showing where recent, ongoing and planned logging overlaps with at-risk old growth – and full compliance with Free, Prior and Informed Consent and the rights of Title holders.
In the months ahead, researchers will continue combing through hundreds of alerts, screening each one and posting those that confirm logging of old growth forests to Forest Eye. Several hundred alerts remain to be screened from the past few years. It is expected that alerts will be generated 1-4 weeks after road building or logging is detected, depending on the quality of satellite imagery available. Anyone can subscribe to email alerts or access them via social media to track ongoing logging in old growth forests and proposed deferral areas.
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, UBCIC President, 250-490-5314
Ziona Eyob, Media Director – Canada, [email protected], +1 604 757 7279 (Pacific Time)