Campaign Launched to Protect Rare Lowland Old-Growth Rainforest and Internationally Significant Eagle Roosting Area east of Vancouver

Published: October 12, 2012
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For Immediate Release
October 11, 2012

Campaign Launched to Protect Rare Lowland Old-Growth Rainforest and Internationally Significant Eagle Roosting Area east of Vancouver
Between Mission and Agassiz, Echo Lake’s old-growth Douglas fir and redcedars are home to hundreds of roosting bald eagles during the fall salmon run. A new BC government proposal would protect some of the area but is still missing key old-growth groves, with public input ending on Nov.5

See SPECTACULAR photos of Echo Lake’s ancient forest at:
Conservationists with the Ancient Forest Alliance (AFA) have launched a new campaign to fully protect one the last endangered lowland old-growth forests left in the Lower Mainland at Echo Lake east of Mission, as part of the organization’s larger campaign to lobby the BC government for a new Provincial Old-Growth Strategy to save endangered old-growth forests across the province. The campaign to protect the Echo Lake Ancient Forest coincides with the onset of a 60 day public input period launched last month by the Ministry of Forests, ending on November 5, in regards to proposed new Old-Growth Management Areas in the Chilliwack Forest District.
The Echo Lake Ancient Forest is a spectacular, monumental stand of enormous mossy redcedars and extremely rare old-growth Douglas firs (99% of which have already been logged on BC’s coast) found on the shores and lower slopes around the lake. The area is within the traditional, unceded territory of the Sts’ailes First Nations band (formerly the Chehalis Indian Band).  The BC government’s newly proposed Old-Growth Management Area (OGMA) for Echo Lake excludes some of the area’s finest old-growth trees.
“This is really an extremely rare gem of lowland ancient rainforest in a sea of second-growth forests, clearcuts, and high altitude old-growth patches. It’s like a little slice of the Carmanah-Walbran, but in the Lower Mainland. To still have an unprotected lowland ancient forest like this left near Vancouver is like finding a Sasquatch. But on top of that, during the fall salmon run the region is home to one of the largest concentrations of raptors on Earth – that is, thousands of fishing and roosting bald eagles,” stated Ken Wu, executive director of the Ancient Forest Alliance. “The BC government’s proposed new Old-Growth Management Area for Echo Lake excludes some of its most spectacular old-growth trees. It’s sort of like serving a burger without the patty, or a lobster without the tail meat. All of the old-growth forests around Echo Lake must be protected.”
In September, the BC Ministry of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations launched a 60 day public review ending on Nov.5 of proposed Old-Growth Management Areas that prohibit logging as part of the process to complete the land use planning process in the Chilliwack Forest District. See:
Echo Lake is found within the Hatzic Landscape Unit, one of 6 landscape units under review in the plan. Unfortunately, while the boundaries of a proposed Old-Growth Management Area (OGMA) for Echo Lake encompasses the old-growth forests on the south side of the lake, some of the finest old-growth redcedars and Douglas firs on the west and north sides of the lake are still excluded from the proposed boundaries, as are mature forests that buffer these groves and provide scenery and additional wildlife habitat.
The Harrison and Chehalis Rivers area is home to one of the largest concentrations of bald eagles on Earth. Thousands of eagles come in the fall to eat spawning salmon in the rivers and hundreds roost in the old-growth trees at night around Echo Lake. It is also home to a large array of biodiversity including bears, cougars, bobcats, deer, mountain goats, and osprey, and until recent times would have been populated by the critically endangered northern spotted owl.
Virtually all low elevation old-growth forests in the region have been now been logged, with most remaining old-growth stands consisting of smaller mountain hemlocks, amabilis firs, and yellow cedars at higher altitudes on steep slopes.
The vigilance of local landowners on the east side of Echo Lake, whose private lands restrict public access to the old-growth forests on the Crown lands on the west side of the lake, have held-off industrial logging from the lake’s old-growth forests for decades. Across the southern coast of BC, about 80% of the original, productive old-growth forests have already been logged.
“A professor from Oxford University did a study in the 1980's on the eagles that roost every fall in the old growth trees surrounding Echo Lake. He said that this small valley has offered sanctuary to these majestic birds for over eight thousand years. When you see them come in at sunset by the hundreds, you quickly realize this valley should be theirs in perpetuity,” stated Stephen Ben-Oliel, the landowner whose private property at Echo Lake abuts the Crown lands covered in old-growth forests.
“Considering the exceptional importance of Echo Lake for bald eagles and the scarcity of these lowland ancient forests in the Lower Mainland, it really should be a no-brainer that all of the old-growth and mature forests around the lake should be protected,” stated TJ Watt, campaigner and photographer with the Ancient Forest Alliance.  “But that also goes for all of the remaining endangered old-growth forests now throughout the Lower Mainland, Vancouver Island, and elsewhere in BC where logging has greatly depleted these ancient ecosystems.”
Local conservationists are also interested in stronger conservation measures for the massive bald eagle population in the area, including stronger protections for salmon habitat, water quality, and forests.  The protection of the Echo Lake Ancient Forest where the eagles roost at night would be a vital part of such a plan. For example, near Squamish at another major eagle congregating region, the Brackendale Eagles Provincial Park protects over 700 hectares of forests on the west side of the Squamish River. The local Sts’ailes First Nations band have a particular interest in protecting the salmon habitat and water quality in the region that supports the eagles.
While the Ancient Forest Alliance is calling for the full protection of Echo Lake’s forests, the organization is primarily calling for a larger provincial plan to protect the remaining endangered old-growth forests across BC while ensuring sustainable second-growth forestry jobs. In particular, some of the key policy shifts the organization is calling for include:

  • A Provincial Old-Growth Strategy that would inventory the remaining old-growth forests in BC and protect them in regions where they are scarce (egs. Vancouver Island, the Lower Mainland, southern Interior, etc.)
  • A shift to sustainable logging in second-growth forests, which now constitute the vast majority of forested lands in southern British Columbia.
  • An end to the export of raw logs to foreign mills in order to ensure a guaranteed log supply for BC mills and value-added manufacturers.

“How many jurisdictions on Earth still have trees that grow as wide as living rooms and as tall as downtown skyscrapers? And how many jurisdictions still consider it okay to turn such trees in giant stumps and tree plantations? What we have here in BC is something exceptional, the likes of which won’t be seen again for a long, long time if they are logged,” stated Wu. “More than ever we need the BC government to have the wisdom and courage to move ahead with a provincial plan that will protect our endangered old-growth forests, ensures the sustainable logging of second-growth forests, and ends the export of raw logs to foreign mills”.

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