Logging Walbran photo by TJ Watt

Sierra Club BC’s Google Earth Tool Shows Vancouver Island Old-growth in State of Emergency

September 28, 2016 – Eighty per cent of delegates attending the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) convention have passed a motion to protect old-growth forests on Vancouver Island from logging. They have further resolved that the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities (AVICC) write to the BC government calling for an amendment to the Vancouver Island Land Use Plan to protect the remaining old-growth forest on provincial Crown land. Sierra Club BC campaigns director made the following statement on the resolution:

“We commend and support all of the municipal leaders, business leaders, and community champions who are speaking up for the ecological and economic values of big old trees. Today’s vote shows that communities all across this province understand that Vancouver Island’s remaining old-growth rainforest is a global treasure, and that its protection is a provincial responsibility.

We will continue to work together with our allies to protect Vancouver Island’s remaining old-growth rainforest, and call on the provincial government to update the Vancouver Island land use plan to include consideration of climate impacts and Aboriginal title and rights.”

Sierra Club BC’s Google Earth Tool Shows Vancouver Island Old-growth in State of Emergency

We have developed a Google Earth file, that shows old-growth coastal rainforest has reached a state of ecological emergency across vast parts of Vancouver Island and B.C.’s South Coast. (See below for instructions on how to use the file.)

The Google Earth file, which can be studied with free Google Earth software, shows how little ancient forest is left as a result of decades of industrial logging.

The Google Earth file reveals that almost half (46 per cent) of the landscape units now have less than 30 per cent of productive old-growth remaining.  (Landscape units are areas of land used for long-term forest planning, usually 50,000 to 100,000 hectares.) Seventeen per cent of the landscape units have less than 10 per cent productive old-growth rainforest remaining.

Large part of the Walbran remains intact. Photo by TJ Watt

Large part of the Walbran remains intact.
Photo by TJ Watt

Experts consider 30 per cent the threshold for ‘high ecological risk’ of loss of species. With climate change exerting additional pressure, endangered species such as the Marbled Murrelet are experiencing compounding stresses and are threatened with extirpation or extinction.

Sierra Club BC is calling for immediate action by the provincial government to protect and restore endangered coastal rainforest ecosystems, before intensifying climate impacts like drought, wildfires and storms coupled with destructive logging practices further exacerbate pressure on ecosystems.

Remaining largely intact rainforest areas, such as the Central Walbran and the Klaskish River/East Creek need immediate conservation steps to save habitat for endangered species and restore second-growth forest to allow for connectivity.

Unless the provincial government changes course and protects what remains of our endangered old-growth, much of the southern coast could turn into an ecological wasteland this century. We must protect and restore our rainforests now, for species, for clean air, clean water, long term forestry jobs and as one of the world’s most efficient carbon sinks.

Photo by TJ Watt

How to use the Sierra Club BC Google Earth file

Explore how the software works, download and install the free version of Google Earth: http://www.google.com/earth/

Download the Sierra Club BC Google Earth file.

Open the file and zoom into the 155 landscape units of Vancouver Island and South Coast (landscape units are areas of land used for long-term forest planning, usually 50,000 to 100,000 hectares).

The Google Earth file (and the Sierra Club BC map) shows the remaining percentage of productive old-growth for all landscape units on Vancouver Island and the South Coast. These are rainforest ecosystems that typically grow relatively big trees (good and medium productivity forest) and store record amounts of carbon, but are also of high interest for logging.

GEfile0

The file reveals that almost half (46 per cent) of the landscape units now have less than 30 per cent of productive old-growth remaining.  Seventeen per cent of the landscape units have less than 10 per cent productive old-growth rainforest remaining. For more information read our backgrounder.

If you click into one of the landscape units, a box shows up with the following information: name of the landscape unit, the total number of hectares of forest in it (some of the area could be non-forest like wetlands etc.), the number of hectares covered by productive forest (good and medium productivity), the number of hectares that remain old-growth, as well as the corresponding % value.

The Google Earth file also shows boundaries of parks (this allows to distinguish areas that are protected from unprotected areas within a landscape unit, for example in the Walbran). This layer can be found in the “Primary database”under “More” (second item; see lower left corner of the first screenshot on this page)

Here is an example:  The Walbran landscape unit contains 30,380 hectares of forest, 27,634 hectares are productive forest (good and medium productivity), 19,576 hectares remain old-growth (71%), which makes the Walbran landscape unit the only one remaining in the entire South Coast with this amount of productive, intact old-growth forest.

walbran screen

We can’t do this work without you! Please help us protect Vancouver Island’s last remaining old-growth.