Old-growth logging rate will lead to collapse on Vancouver Island

In the last 11 years Vancouver Island lost 100,000 hectares of old-growth rainforest. This high rate of logging will inevitably led to an ecological and economic collapse unless the B.C. government takes immediate action.

Photo by Jens Wieting

Photo by Jens Wieting

We’re calling on our provincial government to:

  • increase protection for old-growth trees
  • introduce a plan to phase out old-growth logging
  • support a faster transition toward sustainable, value-added second-growth logging

Help Sierra Club BC protect B.C.’s wilderness, species, and ecosystems by donating today.

The old-growth forests that are being so rapidly logged play an essential role in the well-being of both indigenous and non-indigenous communities. They are also critical to maintaining biodiversity, clean air, and clean water.

Their role in combating climate change must not be overlooked. Old-growth trees are one of our greatest allies as we tackle a warming planet. The trees continue to sequester carbon throughout their lives, whereas a second-growth tree will take decades until it plays a similar role.

Vancouver Island’s incredible carbon sink has been dramatically reduced as a result of logging. Much of the old-growth has been converted from old to young forest and is now contributing to climate change. Our 2009 report, estimates the overall loss of old-growth carbon on Vancouver Island as a result of logging to be at least 370 million tonnes of carbon dioxide. That amount is nearly six times B.C.’s reported annual emissions.

Old-growth in the Walbran Valley.

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

Despite the rapidly decreasing amount of old-growth rainforest on Vancouver Island, the average annual amount of old-growth logging has actually increased by 12 per cent. From 2007 to 2011, a period with an unfavourable market for wood products, 7,600 hectares of old-growth forest were logged annually. From 2011 to 2015 that amount increased to 9,000 hectares

Today there remains only approximately 384,000 of relatively productive, old-growth rainforest ecosystems.  Of the original three million hectares of old-growth rainforest on the island, only about 10 per cent of the biggest trees are left standing. Much of this is unprotected and still at risk of being logged.

The recent finalization of the Great Bear Rainforest Agreements by First Nations governments and the B.C. government shows that solutions are possible. The agreements met science-based conservation levels, strengthened First Nations rights, enabled conservation financing and forest carbon credit projects, and have given forestry companies certainty for logging under stringent standards.

In contrast, south of the Great Bear region coastal rainforests are in a state of ecological emergency as a result of too much logging and a dismal level of protection.

A comprehensive conservation and forest management plan for Vancouver Island must respect First Nations rights and interests, enable a transition to sustainable second-growth forestry, support diverse economic activities such as tourism and reduce carbon emissions.

Read our news release: Vancouver Island old-growth logging rate will lead to collapse, July 14, 2016

Read further coverage of this story:

CBC News: Vancouver Island old growth on brink of collapse, environmental group claims

Times Colonist: ‘Generational amnesia’ softens fight for forests

Vancouver Sun: Sierra Club calls for a moratorium on old growth logging


Featured image by Jens Wieting