Environmentalists say commercial logging permits in old growth forests are increasing not decreasing In British Columbia which has some of the oldest and largest trees. in the world (Wilderness Committtee)

Struggle to preserve ancient forests in west coast B.C. from logging continues

The coastal areas of Vancouver Island, and the parts of the coastal mainland of British Columbia on Canada”s Pacific coast are home to some of the oldest trees anywhere.

Giant trees of 800 to over 1,000 years old were once common in British Columbia. Decades of commercial logging has greatly reduced the number of these ancient forested areas. For years environmentalists have been fighting to preserve the remainder.

The British Columbia government has said it wants to preserve the ancient forests as well and limit logging to forested areas with younger trees. But environmentalists say logging permits for old growth forests have actually gone up.

TJ Watt of the Ancient Forest Alliance stands beside a large red cedar near Port Renfrew B.C. (TJ Watt/Ancient Forest Alliance)

The Wilderness Committee says approvals for logging areas (cutblock areas) have gone up this year by over 40 per cent from last year. This year to April 30, approvals have been granted for almost 85,000 hectares of old growth forest compared to  just over 59,000 hectares last year.

Also last year, a study on the logging issue submitted by two foresters to the provincial government suggested preserving old growth forest out of concern for permanent biodiversity loss. They said loss of 30 per cent of a natural old forest would present a high risk of biodiversity loss.  The report also urged the government to act within six months to set aside the most at-risk areas from logging.

Co author Garry Merkel  quoted by The Canadian Press in March  said, “There (are) some of those ecosystems targeted for harvesting right now”.

Andrea Inness of the Ancient Forest Alliance near a clear cut section. Environmentalists say clear cuts allow rainwater to run freely and carry off valuable topsoil clogging streams and rivers and harming habitat and breeding of fish and other aquatic species. ( Ancient Forest Alliance)

The government later said it would defer harvesting of some 353,000 hectares, while it worked to protect some 1,500 exceptionally old and large trees.   The deferred areas however are comprised of both old growth and second growth areas

An environmental spokesperson, Ancient Forest Alliance campaigner Andrea Inness, claimed only a small portion of the deferred areas, some 3,900 hectares, was in fact previously unprotected.

But it is not just the ancient coastal and Vancouver island forests that are subject to continued logging, A rare inland valley in the central interior is now being targeted.

A coastal Douglas fir stand on southern Vancouver Island. Many of the ancient trees are anywhere from 30 to over 60m tall (196ft) and hundreds of years old (TJ Watt)

The Raush Valley, with its four different bio-geoclimatic subzones, contains a rare inland temperate forest with trees some of which are 1,000 years old

It has protected areas at both ends comprising about a fifteenth of the valley’s 1000 hectares, but the vast central area is open to commercial logging although none has taken place so far.

Access can only be gained by building a logging road through the protected area and a forest company has expressed interest in access to the valley,  Locals are upset about what they see is a lack of consultation. They also question how an area can be protected if a logging road can be built. They are adamantly against the idea of logging what they see is an extremely unique and pristine forest and ecosystem.

Critics say also once a road goes in to an otherwise fairly inaccessible area, you open it up to all kinds of issues such as noise from recreational vehicles, fire potential, litter, habitat fragmentation and invasive species.

The forest products company says they  would like to log in a way in a way that doesn’t upset too many people, but they do hold the logging rights.

The stage seems set for more potential conflict over logging B.C’s ancient forests in this and other cases

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