Saving Our Forest Giants
Dr. Keith Martin, MP - Times Colonist, July 16, 2010
Saving our Forest Giants
Port Renfrew is the furthest outpost of my riding. It is a land of extraordinary beauty with mountains that hug a rugged coastline, rivers that run through deep valleys, and a land that harbours significant biodiversity. This area also contains some of the oldest and most majestic living things on our planet. In the area of the Gordon River Valley and further north in the upper Walbran Valley are some of the largest trees on the planet. A few weeks ago, I went into this remote area with a small team from the Ancient Forest Alliance to document these giant Western Red Cedars, Sitka Spruce and Douglas Fir that jut out of the surrounding valley floors like spires from cathedrals.
These trees are very important as they harbour a wide variety of plants and animals when alive, and when they fall, they also provide homes for everything from black bear to fungi. As standing behemoths or fallen giants, they are integral parts of their ecosystems.
However, my trip was also a race against time. For as you read this article, these giants of the forest are being cut down. As I stood in the middle of a clear-cut, I could hear the sharp crack as another tree was being cut down. Less than one kilometer away, I could see the top of a mountain being clearcut. In this clear-cut I stood atop a stump of a recently fallen tree that was at least 6 metres in diameter. Looking at the tightly packed rings of the tree showed that it was more than a thousand years old, yet it would have taken only minutes to cut it down.
Beyond the obvious loss of these magnificent giants is the tragedy that we can do better; cutting down these trees provides a short term benefit and a much larger,
long term loss. We can save these trees and in fact get more money from them alive than dead. Ecotourism walks to see these giants and their habitats with informed guides can provide much more revenue and jobs than cutting these trees for lumber and paper. Secondary growth could still be harvested. This would provide employment in an area that has had chronically high unemployment and low incomes. In many communities,
aboriginal and non aboriginal people have created businesses to guide people through the beautiful areas they live in. It is especially valuable when ethnocultural tours are provided. The region from Sooke to Port Renfrew is an ideal area for ethno-cultural tourism. Only two and a half hours from Victoria, it is a much shorter drive than to go to
Cathedral Grove up island, and is much more impressive.
Let’s work to stop the clear-cutting of old growth trees on South Vancouver Island. If we do this then we will provide long term economic opportunities and save these giants forever. These trees are more valuable to tourism and to the ecosystem than as lumber.
by Dr. Keith Martin, MP
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