Conservationists demand immediate logging moratoria in light of new research detailing dire state of BC’s old-growth forests

Published: June 4, 2020
Posted in: Media Release
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Victoria, BC – Conservationists with the Ancient Forest Alliance (AFA) are renewing their calls for the BC government to immediately halt logging in endangered old-growth forest ecosystems and intact ‘hotspots’ in the wake of an alarming new report depicting the critical state of BC’s ancient temperate forests.

The report, entitled BC’s Old Growth Forest: A Last Stand for Biodiversity, was prepared by a group of independent scientists for the BC government’s Old Growth Strategic Review panel in order to counter the NDP government’s highly misleading claim that there are 13.2 million hectares of old-growth in BC, comprising about 23% of forested areas.

By analyzing provincial forestry data, the authors found the vast majority (80 percent) of BC’s remaining 13.2 million hectares of old-growth consists of small trees, including bog and subalpine forests, while only about 3 percent (about 400,000 hectares) are comprised of forests capable of growing the big trees that, in most people’s minds, typify old-growth forests. The research also reveals that these remaining, higher productivity forests have been reduced to such an extent from their natural amount that most now face high risks to biodiversity and ecological integrity, yet the majority of them are still slated for logging.

AFA’s TJ Watt sits on top of a ancient, fallen redcedar tree near Haddon Creek in Ditidaht territory on Vancouver Island

In light of these significant findings, the researchers, Ancient Forest Alliance, and other conservation groups are calling on the BC provincial government to enact immediate logging moratoria in all endangered forest types with less than 10 percent old-growth remaining; all high productivity old and mature forests; landscape units (i.e. clusters of watersheds) with less than 10 percent old-growth remaining; very old, irreplaceable forests; and remaining intact areas or old-growth ‘hotspots’ and to develop a legislated, science-based plan for the permanent protection for all endangered ancient forests. 

“This research echoes what we have been witnessing first-hand here on Vancouver Island and the southern mainland for many years: that high productivity old-growth forests are critically endangered and that the BC government’s old-growth protection levels are grossly inadequate,” stated Ancient Forest Alliance campaigner TJ Watt. 

“It also contradicts the Province’s highly misleading PR spin that old-growth forests are plentiful, that sufficient amounts are protected, and that it’s therefore ‘sustainable’ to continue logging them.” 

“The BC government’s old-growth accounting system is problematic for several reasons,” stated Watt. “They fail to distinguish dissimilar geographic regions (e.g. the Great Bear Rainforest vs. the South Coast); they lump all forest types and productivity levels together, meaning small, stunted old-growth trees and grouped in with ancient giants; they exclude vast areas of largely cut-over private lands; and they fail to account for how much old-growth forest has already been logged since European colonization. For example, on Vancouver Island, almost 80% of original productive old-growth forests have been logged, including well over 90% of the low elevation, high-productivity stands where the largest trees grow.” 

“At best, the government’s stats are unhelpful. At worst, they’re a deliberate attempt to mislead British Columbians in order to justify the continued liquidation of remaining, endangered ancient forests.”

BC’s productive old-growth forests are highly complex ecosystems that have evolved over centuries and millennia. They are integral for ensuring the protection of endangered species, climate stability, tourism, clean water, wild salmon, and the cultures of many First Nations. They have unique characteristics that are not replicated by the second-growth forests they’re replaced with and are a non-renewable resource under BC’s forest system, where forests are logged every 50-80 years, never to become old-growth again. 

“It’s well past time decision-makers faced the facts: old-growth forests are in crisis. Unless things change immediately, entire ecosystems and the species they support are at risk of being lost forever,” stated Ancient Forest Alliance campaigner Andrea Inness.

“The BC government must acknowledge and accept these research findings and make bold commitments to address the escalating ecological and climate crises we’re facing in BC by protecting endangered old-growth.”

“While the Province works to develop its proposed Old Growth Strategy, it must immediately halt logging in the rarest ancient forest ecosystems as well as old-growth ‘hotspots’ of particularly high conservation and recreational value like the Central Walbran Valley near Lake Cowichan, the Nahmint Valley near Port Alberni, and Nootka Island near Tahsis.”

“It’s then critical that the BC government use its Old Growth Strategy to develop and implement new, science-based protection targets for old-growth forests to protect biodiversity, ecosystem integrity, and climate resiliency now and well into the future.”

“The BC government must also finance First Nations’ sustainable economic development as an alternative to old-growth logging and formally recognize and support Indigenous-led land use plans and protected areas to maintain the significant cultural values of ancient forests while supporting First Nations’ communities and wellbeing.”

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