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An independent technical panel in British Columbia will advise on how best to manage the province's old growth forests using the best science available to identify old-growth ecosystems and prioritize areas for deferral from logging.Jesse Winter/The Globe and Mail

An independent panel will advise the British Columbia government on the management of its old-growth forests, which have been at the centre of a fractious debate in the province for decades.

The government says in a statement that the technical advisory panel will ensure it’s using the best science available to identify old-growth ecosystems and prioritize areas for deferral from logging.

The statement says the five panel members will provide maps and analysis on the status of old-growth forests in B.C.

In May, three of the people who have been appointed to the panel released mapping that identified 1.3 million hectares of old forests in the province, some of which was at risk of being logged.

At the time, Rachel Holt, Karen Price and Dave Daust said the mapping should serve as a blueprint in determining which old-growth should be set aside from logging while the province develops a sustainable management system for the forests.

The government committed to all 14 recommendations in a report last year on a strategic plan, which included logging deferrals in areas such as the Fairy Creek watershed, where dozens of people have been arrested for protesting old-growth harvesting.

Environment Minister George Heyman says the panel’s work will help transform forestry and conservation practices.

“Old-growth forests provide unique and critical habitats that preserve biodiversity, support clean watersheds and capture carbon crucial to reducing our province’s climate footprint,” Mr. Heyman said in the statement.

Forests Minister Katrine Conroy says the panel’s recommendations will also influence decisions with First Nations on forestry deferral areas.

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This content appears as provided to The Globe by the originating wire service. It has not been edited by Globe staff.

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