Canada's British Columbia to defer logging of at-risk ancient trees

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Nov 2 (Reuters) - Canada's British Columbia province said on Tuesday it would work with indigenous groups to defer logging of rare and ancient trees as part of a strategy to modernize the timber industry and protect the province's shrinking old-growth forests.

The deferral of harvesting of trees at B.C.'s most at-risk old-growth forests is designed to buy time while local leaders develop a longer-term plan for forest management.

The provincial government said it would work with indigenous groups to determine which forest-areas should be protected, the areas that may support some harvest, and the areas that can be used for sustainable timber management to support workers and communities.

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The province has requested the groups to indicate whether they support the deferral within the next 30 days, or if they require further discussions.

Forestry contributes around 5% to B.C.'s economy and a dispute over felling of ancient forests was thrust into the limelight after environmental activists started blocking roads to stop a private logging company from harvesting old-growth trees last year.

In June, B.C. agreed to a request from indigenous groups to defer logging of old-growth trees in the Fairy Creek watershed on Vancouver Island, where environmental activists had been blockading forestry roads. read more

The protest reignited a debate about protecting ancient forests in the province but also raised questions over whether environmentalists have a right to tell indigenous communities, many of which benefit economically from forestry, how to manage their resources. read more

B.C. would help forest workers, communities and indigenous groups with the necessary support to offset job and economic impacts that may follow new harvest restrictions, according to a statement issued Tuesday.

The B.C. government has outlined the beginning of a process with no clear end in sight," said Nicole Rycroft of environmental group Canopy Planet.

"What we need right now are immediate deferrals of logging, legal protection of vital areas, and a detailed and timelined action plan for conservation of the 7.6 million hectares (18.8 million acres) identified by the scientific panel," Rycroft said.

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Reporting by Ismail Shakil in Bengaluru and Katharine Jackson in Washington; Editing by Stephen Coates

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