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Add ancient forests to protected lands: activists

24 Hours - Stefania Seccia, July 9, 2015

Add ancient forests to protected lands: activists
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Photo by TJ Watt.

A forest campaigner stands at the base of a giant old-growth redcedar tree in the central Walbran forest on Vancouver Island.

Environmental advocates are calling on the province to extend the protected areas in southern Vancouver Island to two ancient forest sites threatened by logging.

The Surrey-based Teal-Jones Group has been moving forward to log and build roads into the central Walbran forest and the Edinburgh Mountain forest, which in turn will sell the pulp, paper and solid wood products from the trees.

Teal-Jones has so far applied for one of eight cutblocks in the area, and if the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations approves it, the company can begin work as early as July 13, according to TJ Watt, Ancient Forest Alliance campaigner.

“We’re simply looking at the government, asking them to ensure the ecological values, basically protecting the forest in the central Walbran,” he said. “Hopefully it doesn’t get to the protest point.

“Hopefully it doesn’t get anywhere to the extent it was in the ’90s, with the civil disobedience.”

The two forests are a few kilometres away from the West Coast Trail and Pacific Rim National Park Reserve and located on Crown land.

That’s why the alliance, along with other groups such as the Wilderness Committee, are trying to pressure the government into expanding the protected forests to cover the threatened area, according to Watt.

“It’s one of the finest forests in Canada, if not the Earth,” he said. “If there’s any place that it makes sense, the borders already exist for the protected area already — that seems like a no brainer for including this within the protected area,” she said.

In an email from the ministry, approval times generally take 30 to 40 days and Teal- Jones is within its legal rights to log in the area environmental activists are concerned about.

“They have a government-approved forest stewardship plan in place,” the email states. “As part of the approval process, the company needed to show how public comments were incorporated in the plan.”

On Vancouver Island, only 46% of Crown forest is old growth — more than 860,000 hectares — and it’s estimated around 520,000 hectares will never be harvested, according to the province.

What will happen with the other 300,000 was not explained.

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