Courts wrong place for rainforest battle, Crown says

Published in 24 Hours Vancouver | February 27, 2014 | Circulation: 280,000+

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As environmental groups returned to court Thursday in their lawsuit to protect the province’s old growth rainforests, the B.C. government argued the Supreme Court was the wrong venue to debate the matter.

In October, lawyers from Ecojustice, representing the Wilderness Committee and ForestEthics Solutions, launched the judicial review case. They argued the province’s forestry regulations contradicted requirements to issue notices about ecosystems defined as endangered.

“Who has the expertise here?” Justice Ministry lawyer Leah Greathead asked the court. “Our submission is clearly the court doesn’t have the expertise about the coastal Douglas Fir or Oregon grape plant community, and other factors – and the balance between ensuring there is an adequate timber supply and the conservation of such species.”

Environmentalists said the question was whether the law had been disregarded, not the endangered status – and that their ecological data was in fact Victoria’s own research.

“It’s just not right to drive species or communities of species into extinction,” Wilderness Committee campaigner Joe Foy told 24 hours. “Everybody in society gets that – that’s why the law’s been written this way. But even though the law indicates that we’re not going to wipe out species or communities of species, that is in fact what is going on.”

It’s important to protect both individual species, Foy argued – what many people normally associate with the “endangered” label – but also broader ecosystems.

“That’s what this case is about,” he said. “If we can get success here, in this highly endangered one, I believe we can move to a better place where our government is actively conserving all the different types of forests.”

A Forestry Ministry spokesman said the department couldn’t comment on the matter as it’s before the courts. In a previous statement, as the case launched, the ministry acknowledged the coastal Douglas Fir is “recognized as an endangered ecosystem” with only 256,800 hectares remaining.

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