Growing support for protecting endangered old-growth on Vancouver Island and B.C.’s south coast

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The time has come to end logging of endangered old-growth forests on Vancouver Island and B.C.’s south coast. First Nations, communities, organizations, and citizens are calling for the protection of old-growth forests. Their voices are getting louder, more varied, and more numerous.

A shift is underway since leaders of the Ahousaht First Nation in Clayoquot Sound announced an end to industrial scale logging in their Hahoulthlee (traditional territory) in October 2015. This spring, Sierra Club BC released its latest data in form of a Google Earth tool showing the ecological emergency for endangered old-growth rainforest on Vancouver Island. Politicians and logging companies are hearing over and over the same call: old-growth is far too valuable to destroy.

Voting to defend ancient trees

“Vancouver Island growing away from old growth logging?”

This was the headline of an article featured in many Vancouver Island newspapers discussing a “dramatic shift in Island thinking.”And it was just one of many media articles in previous weeks highlighting the momentum.

This change was reflected in the vote by the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities in favour of halting harvesting of old-growth in April, stating old growth has more “economic, social and environmental value as wildlife habitat, tourism resource, carbon sink and much more” if it is left standing. The decision was echoed by the B.C. Chamber of Commerce, which voted in May to support the same principle across the province in instances where old-growth trees “have or can likely have a greater net economic value for communities if they are left standing.”

Sierra Club BC Forest campaigner Jens Wieting explained that benefits of logging endangered old-growth rainforest on Vancouver Island are greatly overshadowed by its negative impacts. “Logging no longer has the same economic importance. We have two trends: there are fewer benefits from logging and increasing benefits of keeping trees standing.”

Old-growth in the Walbran Valley.

Old-growth in the Walbran Valley.
Photo by Rachel Grigg

The benefits of protecting old-growth forests

A Times Colonist editorial recognized the economic benefits of protecting old-growth forests: “Old-growth forests and other pristine areas of B.C. attract an increasing number of visitors, and will continue to generate jobs forever. When an area is logged off, the jobs are gone until the forest regenerates, and that takes a long, long time. We should remember, too, that forests are about more than esthetics or recreation—they are vital to the health of our watersheds and even the air we breathe.”

Looking at the old-growth logging more broadly shows that many Vancouver Island communities must diversify their economies to move beyond resource extraction dependant livelihoods and avoid ending up as ghost towns. It is time to  thrust ourselves into a just transition away from ecologically destructive logging of Vancouver Island’s finite non-renewable old-growth to a diverse economy including old-growth tourism, sustainable, value added second-growth forestry, conservation financing and carbon revenue for First Nations (such as in the Great Bear Rainforest and the Cheakamus Community Forest Carbon project).

Preventing destructive logging practices

While many were calling for an end to old-growth logging, others were highlighting the damage currently taking place in our ancient forests. The Tyee and numerous Vancouver Island newspapers reported on Sierra Club BC’s work to increase scrutiny and awareness about poor practices and destructive logging of some of the last intact old-growth rainforest on Northern Vancouver Island by Lemare Lake Logging in East Creek.

Also in June, the Vancouver Sun’s Stephen Hume stated that proposed logging in the endangered Cameron Valley Ancient Forest (“Firebreak”) on Vancouver Island would be “a crime against nature”. In July, Hume reported on Sierra Club BC’s study showing that high rates of old growth rainforest logging on Vancouver Island will lead to an ecological and economic collapse in a generation unless provincial government policy changes.

Logging in East Creek, Photo by Mark Worthing

Logging in East Creek, Photo by Mark Worthing

In the Times Colonist, the Wilderness Committee reminded readers that government and industry must show leadership to protect  one of the grandest stands on the island, the Central Walbran, from further fragmentation through old-growth cutting: “Listening to the destruction of some of the last old-growth rainforest on Vancouver Island is tough, but it’s not as frustrating as watching our elected officials turn their backs on this problem and on the citizens, local governments and business groups who want it addressed.”

The recent completion of the final steps of the Great Bear Rainforest Agreements through First Nations governments and the BC government, with the support of a group of environmental organizations and logging companies, shows that solutions are possible. As a result of the agreements, 85 percent (3.1 million hectares) of the region’s coastal temperate rainforests are now off-limits to industrial logging. The amount of old-growth available as part of the remaining 15 percent of the forest will be capped and subject to the most stringent commercial logging legal standards in North America. In contrast, very little old-growth remains in the southern half of the coast, and even less is protected.

Learn more, do more

For more information, including what must be done to safeguard Vancouver Island’s endangered old-growth rainforest and how to contact the B.C. government to share your concerns, please check out our newspaper “Vancouver Island’s Last Stand” (jointly published with our friends at Wilderness Committee)

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