Trees up to 1,000 years old being felled by logging companies in spite of rules against it

Ancient Forest Alliance campaigner Andrea Inness walks beside an enormous, freshly fallen western red cedar in a BCTS-issued cutblock in the Nahmint Valley near Port Alberni. Photo: TJ Watt

The fall of giants: irreplaceable trees logged

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These are some of the biggest, oldest living creatures that have ever existed in Earth’s history. It’s ethically wrong, it’s ecologically destructive”, Ken Wu, executive director, Ancient Forest Alliance

After decades of campaigning to save old growth forest giants on the west coast, activists are shocked that it’s still happening.

Members of the Ancient Forest Alliance and other environmental groups discovered several giant trees felled this month in the Nahmint Valley near Port Alberni on Vancouver Island.

Map showing approximate location of Nahmint Valley about 40 km west of Port Alberni. Image: google maps

The provincial New Democratic Party (NDP) government is being blamed for the action through its agency B.C. Timber Sales (BCTS). The agency auctioned off a 300 hectare section (cutblock) which includes some of the biggest old-growth Douglas Fir and western red cedar trees in the province.

Among them was the ninth widest tree in all of British Columbia (3 m/10ft), and one of the tallest(66m/216ft) according to the “B.C. Big Tree Registry”

This tree, the ninth widest, and among the tallest at 66 metres, was cut down last month, shocking conservationists. Image: TJ Watt

There are fewer than 1% of the old-growth Douglas-firs on the coast remaining. It’s like finding a huge black rhino or Siberian tiger that’s been shot. There are simply too few today and logging the last of these giants shouldn’t be allowed to happen anymore in BC,- Mike Stini of the Port Alberni Watershed-Forest Alliance

The ninth widest tree estimated at about 800 years old was cut down in spite of provincial guidelines indicating such huge old trees should be saved; The trees are estimated to be between 600-1,000 years old. Image: TJ Watt

 Environmentalist Mike Stini said he spoke to the mill owner responsible for the cut block as was told the contractor was advised to leave that specific tree alone.

There is a provincial policy to protect such ancient trees, but activists say it’s not being enforced. In a statement by the Ancient Forest Alliance campaigner T.J. Watt said,  “According to BCTS’ policy, Douglas-fir trees over 2.1 meters (7 feet) wide and western red cedars over 3 metres (10 feet) wide located within BCTS-issued cutblocks should be left standing, In spite of this policy, they still cut down Canada’s 9th widest Douglas-fir tree that was 3 meters (10 feet) wide – far larger than their minimum protection size – and we saw several fresh cedar stumps wider than 3 metres. In addition to it being a weak policy to begin with, with plenty of loopholes and lacking buffer zones for the biggest trees, they aren’t even implementing it in the Nahmint Valley. BCTS’ ‘best practices’ didn’t even save the ninth-widest Douglas-fir in Canada”.

Trees estimated at 500 -1,000 years old being cut down in the Nahmint valley, among the few ancient giants left.

Ariane Telishewsky sits atop a recently felled western red cedar tree in the Nahmint Valley near Port Alberni. “There were near record-breaking trees that we found that were being cut,There were near record-breaking trees that we found that were being cut”. Photo TJ Watt

Environmentalists are also upset because as they say there is plenty of second growth trees available for logging and therefore no need to cut down the ancient trees.

People are angry with the NDP government which had made election promises to protect old growth forests. Forestry Minister Doug Donaldson says there are 3,000 hectares of protected old growth forest in the valley, “so it’s a balancing act…and we’re working on addressing those concerns”.

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