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Stop bragging about protecting BC species enviro group tells Forest Products Association

The Wilderness Committee has blasted a timber industry group for claiming a strong record on protecting endangered species and seeking a voice in revising the legislation.

The Forest Products Association, which represents coastal forest companies that produce solid wood products and paper products, said in their most recent newsletter that their history of environmental stewardship and successfully protecting at-risk species qualifies them to make recommendations for improvements to the legislation.

But Gwen Barlee of the Wilderness Committee retorted in a release that the forestry industry needs a reality check.

"Saying that the spotted owl is an example of good forest stewardship is like saying a heart attack is an example of a healthy diet," she said.

Species like the northern spotted owl are on the brink of extinction due to logging and a lack of endangered species legislation in B.C., the Wilderness Committee policy director told The Tyee. "The spotted owl is the poster child for how endangered species have been mismanaged."

Wilderness Committee and Coast Forest Products Association both say that changes need to be made to the provincial and federal Species at Risk Act, but they differ in their ideas of what to do.

The Wilderness Committee release noted that scientists estimate that there are 12 spotted owls left in the wild in B.C. -- the only place in Canada where they can be found. Historically, B.C. provided homes for nearly 500 breeding pairs of spotted owls.

Reached by The Tyee, a spokesperson for Coast Forest Projects Association declined to comment, except to say that B.C. is recognized for having stringent forest practice regulations.

The association proposed in its newsletter that the provincial government form a team of academics, biologists, economists, ecologists, and professional foresters in order to have a broader knowledge base for proposing changes to legislation.

In addition, they suggest using best management practices, field experience, and voluntary stewardship to enhance conservation -- methods they say their members employ.

Wilderness Committee thinks prescriptive laws are the answer.

"These endangered species need political will and stand-alone endangered species legislation which have the ability to identify and protect critical habitat, including the old growth forests where spotted owls live," Barlee said.

Barlee also noted that it is a "well-known fact that forestry companies target the same old-growth forests these owls need to survive in."

According to the Environment Ministry, spotted owls are ranked second for conservation priority on a scale of one (highest) through six (lowest).

B.C. is one of two provinces (the other is Alberta) with no endangered species legislation. It is home to 1,900 species at risk.

-Rachel Bergen is completing her practicum at The Tyee.

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