B.C.'s new Zero Net Deforestation Act encourages an equal area of trees be planted for carbon storage to offset any forest land that is permanently cleared for another use, Forests and Range Minister Pat Bell announced today.
"British Columbia is committed to achieving zero net deforestation by 2015 to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions," said Bell. "Forests absorb and store carbon, which make them important allies in the fight against climate change."
The act meets government's commitment in the 2008 speech from the throne to pursue the goal of zero net deforestation, which will be achieved when the area of newly created forest land in B.C. is equal to or greater than the area of deforestation.
The act also requires that the Minister of Forests and Range regularly reports on progress toward zero net deforestation.
The three keys to achieving zero net deforestation are to avoid, minimize and mitigate deforestation. Sometimes the loss of forest land to other purposes, such as housing or highway development, is necessary. In these cases, the preferred option is to minimize the footprint and mitigate the impacts by creating new forests on previously non-forested land.
The Zero Net Deforestation Act defines deforestation as the permanent loss of trees from an area. Timber harvesting in B.C. is sustainably managed, and not considered to be deforestation.
"British Columbia's forests are a tremendous resource when it comes to fighting climate change," said Minister of State for Climate Action, John Yap. "Having a Zero Net Deforestation Act will mean our future forests will continue to help us meet our target of reducing our greenhouse gas emissions by 33 per cent by 2020."
The Ministry of Forests and Range plans to partner with a variety of other groups and agencies to help encourage projects that will mitigate deforestation.
"The Province of British Columbia is to be commended for its commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by implementing a zero net deforestation policy," said Michael Rosen, president of Tree Canada. "We are ready to assist the provincial government in achieving its goals by promoting the afforestation of suitable non-forest land with our B.C. partners."
Over the coming months, the Province will engage with stakeholders, communities and First Nations for their ideas on the best ways to implement zero net deforestation.
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