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For Immediate Release – Dec. 4, 2015
Conservationists Measure Near Record-Size Cedar in the Endangered Central Walbran Valley
Ancient Forest Alliance calls on Premier Clark to Counteract Climate Change by Protecting Old-Growth Forests
Conservationists with the Ancient Forest Alliance have located and measured two huge western redcedar trees, one of which makes it into the top 10 widest redcedars in BC, in the endangered Central Walbran Valley on Vancouver Island. The “Tolkien Giant” comes in as the 9th widest western redcedar in BC, according to the BC Big Tree Registry: http://bit.ly/1Iuf9Tv and has been tentatively measured at 14.4 metres (47 feet) in circumference or 4.6 meters (15 feet) in diameter, and about 42 meters (138 feet) in height. Another tree, the “Karst Giant” has been tentatively measured at 12.1 meters (40 feet) in circumference or 3.9 meters (13 feet) in diameter (no height measurement yet) and although it does not make the top 10, it is still an exceptional tree.
See photos online here: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.943847985709789.1073741894.823970554364200&type=3
“In the giant trees and in the soil, the old-growth temperate rainforests on Vancouver Island store more carbon per hectare than even tropical rainforests do – and massive amounts of carbon are released when they are logged and converted into second-growth tree plantations, which will take 200 years of growth to re-sequester the lost carbon,” stated Ken Wu, Ancient Forest Alliance executive director. “Poor forest management and destructive logging are one of the largest greenhouse gas emissions sources in the province and at a time when Christy Clark is touting her climate change record in Paris, the province needs to come up with a science-based Old-Growth Protection Plan to save the endangered ancient forests of Vancouver Island and beyond.”
“Not only are old-growth forests important for the climate, but also for tourism, endangered species, clean water, wild salmon, and many First Nations cultures,” stated TJ Watt, Ancient Forest Alliance campaigner and photographer. “The Central Walbran Valley includes the grandest ancient redcedar forests in all of Canada, in large part because the region has the finest growing conditions in the country. But its days may be numbered unless the BC Liberal government wakes up.”
The Tolkien Giant lies within a narrow and tenuous forest reserve (an Old-Growth Management Area), but logging is planned in the old-growth forest on the adjacent slope, including in the grove where the Karst Giant is found. The Karst Giant is found exactly on the boundary of a proposed cutblock and it is unclear whether or not it will be cut or left standing (but even if left standing, it would be exposed to being blown down by the fierce winter winds through the adjacent clearcut).
The Ancient Forest Alliance is calling on the province to protect its endangered old-growth forests, ensure a sustainable second-growth forest industry, and end the export of raw, unprocessed logs to foreign mills in order to support BC forestry jobs. An Old-Growth Protection Act has been developed by the University of Victoria’s Environmental Law Centre for the Ancient Forest Alliance. See: http://www.elc.uvic.ca/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/An-Old-Growth-Protection-Act-for-BC_2013Apr.pdf
BC’s official greenhouse gas emissions in 2013 were 64 megatons of carbon dioxide, whereas destructive logging practices were responsible for the release of an average of 49.5 megatons of carbon dioxide annually over a 10 year period between 2003-2012 (not counted as part of official emissions) – see http://sierraclub.bc.ca/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/Forest-Emissions-Detailed-Backgrounder_June22.pdf Only a minor fraction, as low as 15%, of the carbon from logging BC’s old-growth forests ends up in solid wood products – most of it ends up relatively quickly into the atmosphere within a few years (see http://www.uvm.edu/rsenr/greenforestry/LIBRARYFILES/ForestCarbonReport.pdf) Old-growth forests on BC’s coast store about twice the carbon per hectare as the ensuing second-growth tree plantations that they are being replaced with – logging them releases vast amounts of carbon that would take 200 years to re-sequester, but only if forests were allowed to grow that long (which they don’t under the 50 to 80 year rotation age on BC’s coast) – see http://faculty.geog.utoronto.ca/Chen/Chen's%20homepage/PDFfiles2/KurzetalMASGC1998.pdf Contrary to the timber industry’s PR-spin, old-growth forests continue to sequester significant amounts of carbon even as they age: www.nature.com/nature/journal/v455/n7210/abs/nature07276.html
On BC’s southern coast (Vancouver Island and the southwest mainland), 75% of the original, productive old-growth forests have already been logged, including over 90% of the valley bottoms where the largest trees grow. 3.3 million hectares of productive old-growth forests once stood on the southern coast, and today 860,000 hectares remain, while only 260,000 hectares are protected in parks and Old-Growth Management Areas. www.ancientforestalliance.org/old-growth-maps.php
“Over the past 30 years thousands of people have come to marvel at the ancient trees of the Central Walbran Valley. With its complex structure and rare biodiversity it is renowned as one of the grandest and most beautiful forests in the world. Considering how little old-growth remains on southern Vancouver Island, and also considering the fact that ancient forests are globally significant carbon dioxide sinks – the absolute best use of this contiguous old-growth gem is not more logging and landscape fragmentation, but rather keeping these last giants standing for the climate, wildlife, tourism, wild salmon, and the health of future generations,” stated Erika Heyrman of the Friends of Carmanah-Walbran.
The 500 hectare Central Walbran Valley is part of the 13,000 hectare Walbran Valley, of which about 5500 hectares of the valley is protected in the Carmanah-Walbran Provincial Park and 7500 hectares of the watershed lies outside the park. The Central Walbran is the last, largely intact portion of the unprotected part of the Walbran watershed as the rest has been highly fragmented and tattered by clearcuts. Teal-Jones has 8 cutblocks planned for the Central Walbran Valley, of which one, Cutblock 4424, has been granted a cutting permit by the Ministry of Forests. At this time, the company has not moved to log Cutblock 4424, but is actively logging other areas near the park boundary.
A loose alliance of conservation groups and activists are pushing to protect the Central Walbran, with groups of protesters turning around logging trucks in recent weeks while an information/awareness camp has been established in the heart of the Central Walbran. Independent forest activists are planning a gathering at the camp this Saturday (tomorrow) at 12 noon at the main bridge in the Central Walbran. The Walbran Valley is in the territory of the Nuu-cha-Nulth Pacheedaht band in Tree Farm Licences 44 and 46 on Crown lands near Port Renfrew.
The Tolkien Giant was found by a Western Canada Wilderness Committee (WCWC) volunteer in 2002 and was nicknamed the Tolkien Giant by Ken Wu, the WCWC Victoria chapter's executive director at the time (now with the AFA). However, while noted as a big tree then, it has not been accurately measured until now, in part due to the fact it could not be accurately measured until a large section of shrubs, soil, and hemlock trees that grew on its lower base were ripped off during a storm. The Karst Giant was found by Ancient Forest Alliance activists TJ Watt and Ken Wu on a trip to the Walbran last week in a remote proposed cutblock, an area also known for its heavy karst features (see a recent Globe and Mail article about this area at: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/british-columbia/karst/article27519264/ ) Another giant western redcedar, the Castle Giant, has not been officially measured yet but may still be the largest tree in the valley.