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Canadian athletes sign petition to protect B.C.’s old growth forests

Among the 34 athletes is ultrarunner and adventurer, Ray Zahab. They are imploring the B.C. government to protect what's left of the province's old-growth forests

Thirty-four professional Canadian athletes have signed a petition asking B.C. Premier John Horgan to protect the province’s forests by implementing “all of the Old Growth Strategic Review recommendations before it is too late.” Among the athletes who signed the letter is ultrarunner and explorer, Ray Zahabof Chelsea, B.C.

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The athletes who wrote the letter are all ambassadors for Protect Our Winters Canada, a community of enthusiasts, professional athletes and industry brands uniting the outdoor community to advocate for policy solutions to climate change. According to the Adventure Tourism Coalition, adventure tourism in British Columbia directly or indirectly supports 32,000 families and generated $3.2 billion in visitor spending in 2018. In their letter, the athletes address this, along with the significant environmental impact associated with deforestation in the area.

“Very few old-growth forests are still standing across the province. Most of them are slated to be logged even though these forests have a greater net economic, ecological and cultural value for communities if they are left standing,” they state in the letter.

They go on to say that by protecting endangered old-growth forests, restoring intact forests and reforming forest management, the B.C. government can support the health and safety of communities “by mitigating these climate-related disasters before the climate crisis worsens.” The athletes warn that without immediate action to protect and restore these forests, the tourism and recreation industries in the province will see a significant economic downfall. They ask that the government take the following actions:

  1. Expedite engagement with Indigenous decision-makers to implement all recommendations of the
    Old Growth Strategic Review, in line with the B.C. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous
    Peoples Act;
  2. Provide interim protection for all at-risk old-growth as called for by the Old Growth Strategic
    Review with the intent to eventually legislate permanent protection;
  3. Commit to implementing the 14 recommendations by providing funding for Indigenous-led
    conservation solutions and transition support for forestry-dependent communities.

Finally, the athletes conclude by warning premier Horgan that the threats facing B.C.’s communities, environment and tourism industry will only get worse, since these forests are non-renewable within any reasonable time frame. “Once they are gone, we’ve lost them forever.”

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