New Mapping Analysis: Walbran is Vancouver Island’s Most Intact Unprotected Old-Growth

Sierra Club BC calls on B.C. government to protect all of the Walbran


October 15, 2015

VICTORIA–Mapping analysis by Sierra Club BC shows the Walbran Valley is the most urgent opportunity to increase protection of contiguous, old-growth rainforest and habitat on Vancouver Island.

Sierra Club BC examined 155 landscape units on Vancouver Island and B.C.’s south coast. Only five (three per cent), including the Walbran landscape unit, remain primarily covered by “big-tree” old-growth rainforest with the highest level of intactness (over 70 per cent old-growth). Overall, only six per cent of these old-growth forests are in protected areas in this part of the province.

“Our analysis is crystal clear – there is no better opportunity left to protect intact rainforest on Vancouver Island,” said Jens Wieting, Sierra Club BC forest and climate campaigner. “The B.C. government should revoke this cut permit, because once logged, old-growth is gone forever. Warmer temperatures and increased drought conditions brought on by climate change will deprive it of the conditions it needs.

“We must protect increasingly rare old-growth and the Walbran Valley in particular—for species diversity, clean air, clean water, as an outdoor destination and as the world’s most efficient carbon sink. At the same time, we can build a sustainable forest industry around productive second growth.”

Vancouver Island is home to four of the five remaining “big tree” old-growth landscape units. Three are already protected, but almost 40 per cent of the Walbran landscape unit remains unprotected.

The Walbran is the only landscape unit in the southern half of the Island with over 70 per cent “big tree” old-growth remaining. The B.C. government recently awarded the first of eight logging permits requested by Teal Jones for this unprotected part of the Walbran Valley.

Sierra Club BC’s analysis highlights the remaining percentage of good and medium old-growth forest, which are characterized by towering trees and the highest carbon storage per hectare on the planet.

Old-growth coastal rainforest continues to steadily sequester more carbon from the atmosphere. Clearcutting old-growth releases enormous amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. A recent Sierra Club BC report revealed that, over the past two decades, B.C.’s forests as a whole have shifted to being net emitters of carbon. This contrasts starkly to their historic role capturing huge amounts of carbon from the atmosphere.

Sierra Club BC and Wilderness Committee activists explored the area slated for logging in September and found monumental cedars, massive Sitka spruce, hemlock, amabalis fir and Douglas-fir trees.  They named the area Black Diamond Grove for its steep slope. The crown jewel of the Black Diamond Grove is the Leaning Tower Cedar, a cedar approximately three metres wide at its base and probably as old as 1,000 years.

Intact, resilient, coastal rainforest needs protection before intensifying climate impacts such as drought, wildfires and storms, coupled with irresponsible logging practices, further amplify pressure on ecosystems and species diversity.

Sierra Club BC is calling for a provincial government action plan to protect and restore B.C.’s forests in light of climate change impacts. Focus should be placed on conservation and restoration of endangered rainforest ecosystems on Vancouver Island and the south coast, which have been found relatively resilient to climate impacts in their intact state. B.C.’s forest industry must shift to harvesting sustainable levels of second growth forest and value-added manufacturing.


Map of Vancouver Island Old-Growth Rainforest:

Photos of the Walbran Valley and Black Diamond Grove taken by Sierra Club BC and Wilderness Committee activists on a recent trip to the Walbran cut blocks can be found here:
(available for media use, with credit included)

Contact information: Jens Wieting, Forest and Climate Campaigner, 604-354-5312