FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
December 14, 2017
VICTORIA—A new Sierra Club BC review of government data and recent satellite images showed that logging of remaining old-growth rainforest on public and private lands on Vancouver Island jumped to 10,700 hectares in 2016. This number is more than 10 per cent higher than the annual average in the 10-year period 2005–2015.
“Time is running out to safeguard highly endangered, globally rare old-growth rainforest,” said Jens Wieting, Sierra Club BC’s forest and climate campaigner. “We need to act now before the remaining stands get logged or become too fragmented to protect the web of life, First Nations’ values and diverse economic activities that depend on intact forests.”
The total old-growth logged on Vancouver Island during the 10-year period between 2005–2015 was 88,900 hectares. The average annual amount of old-growth logged was 8,890 hectares (equivalent to about 22 Stanley Parks). However, this annual amount increased significantly in 2016 to 10,700 hectares (equivalent to more than 26 Stanley Parks).
In its election platform, the NDP stated it would take action for old-growth forests, modernize land-use planning in partnership with First Nations, and use the ecosystem-based management of the Great Bear Rainforest as a model.
“Ramping up old-growth logging instead of reducing it means that the inevitable transition to second-growth forestry will only become harder in the coming years,” said Arnold Bercov, President of the Public and Private Workers of Canada. “We need immediate action by the NDP government for sustainable second-growth forestry jobs and endangered old-growth, before more mills close their doors.”
Support for protecting endangered old-growth on Vancouver Island has been growing quickly in recent years. Chambers of Commerce, local governments, forestry unions, First Nations leaders and conservation groups have called on the provincial government to increase protection of old-growth for wildlife, First Nations’ cultural values, opportunities for tourism and recreation, and carbon storage.
A 2016 Sierra Club BC analysis of remaining old-growth on Vancouver Island and the South Coast showed that almost half 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). Ecologists consider 30 per cent the threshold for ‘high ecological risk’ of loss of species. The increase in old-growth logging will result in even higher ecological risk for flora and fauna combined with increasingly severe climate change impacts. Government data paints an overly optimistic picture by including poor productivity old-growth rainforest ecosystems with typically smaller trees.
Environmental organizations Sierra Club BC, Ancient Forest Alliance and Wilderness Committee have asked the BC government to develop an Old-Growth Protection Act and establish logging moratoria for critical remaining intact old-growth areas before it is too late to develop long-term protection plans. These steps must be combined with support for new jobs in improved second-growth forest management and for First Nations land use planning and sustainable economic activities.
Forest and Climate Campaigner, Sierra Club BC
High-res versions of maps available upon request:
Forests and the industries they support are changing on Vancouver Island. Sierra Club BC and Wilderness Committee are hitting the road for discussions in communities about the state of our forests. We want to hear what you think about how we can make forestry in a changing climate work for communities, Indigenous peoples and ecosystems.
Vancouver Island’s iconic rainforests are under threat — much of the original forest has been cut down, and many ecosystems have been pushed to the brink. In an era of climate change, the importance of healthy intact old-growth rainforests couldn’t be greater.
How do we make a just transition to sustainable second-growth forest industry in a way that recognizes the rights, title and authority of First Nations who have thrived here since time immemorial? How do we ensure old-growth is protected in a way that works for local communities? How will forests and forestry be impacted by global climate change?
In a 6-stop discussion series, we’ll present the facts on what’s happening in Vancouver Island’s forests, and highlight potential solutions and paths forward.
Most importantly, we want to hear your ideas on how to better manage these precious ecosystems.
We hope you can join us!
** Port Hardy: November 2, 7-9 pm, Cafe Guido
** Campbell River: November 2nd, 7-9 pm, Campbell River Community Centre
** Duncan: November 3rd, 7-9 pm, Island Savings Centre
** Nanaimo: November 8th, 7-9 pm, Vancouver Island University, Building 250, Room 125.
** Port Alberni: November 9th, 6:30-8:30 pm, Echo Community Centre
** Courtenay: November 10th, 7-9 pm, Native Sons Hall
These events are being held on the territories of the Kwakwaka’wakw, Nuu-chah-nulth, and Coast Salish peoples.
Are you in the Lower Mainland?
Join Sierra Club BC’s forest and climate campaigner Jens Wieting as we stroll among the giants in Stanley Park. Jens will lead us on an enlightening journey as we see some of the largest old-growth trees in BC.
Details: Saturday October 28, 11 am – 12:30 pm. Meet where Cathedral Trail meets North Lagoon Drive. RSVP on Facebook
This walk will take place on the unceded territories of the Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh and Musqueam First Nations.
Take climate action by supporting Sierra Club BC’s campaign to protect Vancouver Island’s carbon-rich old-growth rainforest!
Travel—especially by air—burns a lot of carbon dioxide. Are you heading off on holidays soon? Have you considered buying carbon credits to offset some of your emissions?
Carbon offsets run the gamut from good to bad. Credible offsets can contribute to climate solutions – if they are combined with concrete steps to reduce emissions. Unfortunately there are many examples of dubious projects, making it important to verify whether standards are met.
As an alternative to buying carbon offsets, consider supporting Sierra Club BC’s work toward lasting protection of Vancouver Island’s carbon-rich endangered old-growth rainforest.
BC’s old-growth rainforests store up to 1,000 tonnes of carbon per hectare, one of the highest rates on earth. They’re like a carbon bank, accumulating carbon in soil, trees and organic matter over millennia. Reducing emissions by avoiding logging of this old-growth has immediate benefits for the climate.
Sadly, about half of the carbon stored in these ecosystems gets released in clearcut logging. This is often combined with slash burning, an egregious practice that releases millions of tonnes of greenhouse gases annually and must be phased out.
It can take centuries until the biomass reaches previous levels—time we don’t have.
While improving forest management will help in the fight against climate change, the most urgent step is to simply leave carbon-rich and resilient forests alive and standing.
This is why Sierra Club BC is working so hard to protect ancient forests.
By becoming a member of Sierra Club BC, you can help protect British Columbia’s forests and our climate.
Vancouver Island: The last stand for carbon-rich old-growth
In BC, Vancouver Island is Ground Zero for logging of endangered old-growth rainforest. A recent Sierra Club BC analysis showed that destruction of the Island’s original old-growth rainforest is occurring three times faster than primary forest loss in tropical rainforests.
Globally, the loss of primary forests – characterized by ecological processes largely undisturbed by human activity – is threatening species, carbon storage and environmental services. In some countries this is primarily in the form of deforestation; in other countries such as Canada, this is primarily through the replacement of rich ancient forests with even-aged young forest.
Sierra Club BC’s data shows that between 1990 and 2015, Vancouver Island’s primary old-growth forest has declined by thirty per cent. (Three times higher than the ten percent decline for primary forests of tropical countries over the same time period.) Only about ten percent of the biggest trees remain standing. In the last few years the annual old-growth logging rate was 9,000 hectares per year or twenty-five hectares a day.
We have estimated the impact of one year’s worth of old-growth logging on Vancouver Island on our climate. We found old-growth logging on the Island alone essentially eliminated BC’s progress in reducing carbon emissions in the same year, releasing approximately 3 million tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and nullifying the province’s progress in reducing annual emissions by the same amount.
Solutions are possible when we work together
The 2016 Great Bear Rainforest Agreements show that solutions are possible. The agreements met science-based conservation levels, strengthened First Nations rights, enabled conservation financing and forest carbon credit projects, and gave forestry companies certainty for logging under stringent standards. The Great Bear Rainforest carbon project documentation showed that the reduced rate of logging is resulting in 600,000 tonnes of carbon emissions reductions annually, benefiting the region’s First Nations with revenue from carbon.
New protected areas and conservation measures for Vancouver Island must respect First Nations rights and interests, enable a transition to sustainable second-growth forestry and support diverse economic activities such as tourism and reduce carbon emissions. The Ahousaht Nation in Clayoquot Sound is leading the way in demonstrating alternatives to old-growth logging, with their land use vision that includes an end to industrial logging in their territory.
Sierra Club BC mapping shows approximately 1.5 million hectares of remaining old-growth forest on Vancouver IsIand and the South Coast area that are currently unprotected. Within this area, there are 600,000 hectares of relatively productive stands, with significant carbon storagecapacity and a higher likelihood of getting targeted for logging. These forests alone store the equivalent of thirteen times BC’s annual emissions.
Sierra Club BC will work with the new BC government, First Nations and the forestry sector to increase protection of ecosystems with high carbon and species habitat value, in particular temperate rainforests, as a key element in its response to global warming. Old-growth rainforest is more resilient than younger forest, and BC’s ecosystems and species habitat are shifting rapidly in a changing climate. That’s why ecologists consider the remaining old-growth a “non-renewable” resource.
Join us today
We will only get there with your support. We cannot tell you exactly how many tonnes of carbon will remain stored in ancient trees as a result of our work, instead of getting chopped and partly burned in slash piles. But we can assure you that our role has been and will continue to be critical to ensure progress for new protected areas and our climate.
Please consider supporting Sierra Club BC’s work toward lasting protection of Vancouver Island’s carbon-rich endangered old-growth rainforest.
You can do this by becoming a member of Sierra Club BC. The best way to support our work is with a monthly contribution of $8, $15 or $25.
So, are you in?
Feature image by Andrew S. Wright.
 The original extent of old-growth rainforest on Vancouver Island was 2,600,000 hectares, of which anestimated 1,082,000 hectares were remaining by 1990. By 2015 the remaining old-growth was reduced to 748,000 hectares, adecline of 30 percent over the course of just 25 years.
 According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, tropical countries showed an overall decline of 10 percent of their primary forest in the last 25 years (from 1990 to 2015).
By Alys Granados
Most of us have heard about how rainforests are in trouble and the rapid rate at which we are losing these spectacular ecosystems, along with the incredible diversity of species that depend on them. Globally, most of these reports focus on tropical rainforests and there has been too little awareness about the fate of temperate rainforests. Close to home, very few know that the remaining old-growth forest on Vancouver Island is disappearing faster than natural tropical rainforests.
Few of us have the opportunity to visit tropical forests in person, which can make us feel disconnected from the problems of deforestation and degradation of tropical countries. I am extremely lucky to have had the opportunity to work in tropical rainforests over the past seven years, as part of my graduate work in wildlife ecology. Most of this has been in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo where I investigated how selective logging disrupts interactions between trees and mammals.
The loss of intact tropical forests continues to be a serious threat. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) recently estimated that globally, ten per cent of the remaining primary forests in tropical rainforest countries were lost between 1990 and 2015. These forests are home to many species which exist nowhere else on the planet and protecting their habitats is critical to their survival. Further, the livelihood of millions of people depends on intact forests and they play an important role in mitigating the effects of climate change by storing massive amounts of carbon.
While all of this may be well known to many, few of us in Canada realize just how fast old-growth rainforest is being logged on Vancouver Island. I was very shocked to learn from recent Sierra Club BC data that over that same period (1990 to 2015), thirty per cent of the remaining old-growth forest on Vancouver Island was logged. In other words, the rate of loss of so-called “primary forests” (forests that were largely undisturbed by human activity) on Vancouver Island is actually three times greater than in the tropics. In the last few years the rate of old-growth logging on the Island has actually increased by twelve per cent to 9,000 hectares per year (25 hectares a day).
So what’s behind this forest loss? Similar to the tropics, logging plays a central role. One difference is that in many tropical countries logging often results in deforestation, while in other countries such as Canada logging generally leads to the replacement of rich ancient forests with even-aged young forest. Much of the old-growth forest on Vancouver Island has already been lost to clearcut logging and the remaining patches of old-growth (called variable retention by foresters) are too small to maintain enough habitat for species that depend on old-growth forest.
In response to the Sierra Club BC data, the BC government stated that it is misleading to compare the problem in tropical countries to Vancouver Island, because in British Columbia logging companies are required by law to reforest logged areas. While this is true, old-growth ecosystems with trees that are many hundreds of years of age are not growing back at a meaningful timescale and climate change means we will never see the same type of forest grow back in the first place.
Species that rely on old-growth forest such as the marbled murrelet are negatively affected by the loss of old forest stands. In addition, the resulting large areas of young trees are not offering the type of habitat that most of the typical plants and animals on Vancouver Island depend on.
Similar to tropical forests, coastal temperate forests play an important role storing carbon dioxide. In fact a single hectare of temperate rainforest can store up to 1000 tonnes of carbon, a much greater amount than most tropical rainforests. Even if replanting is carried out, along the coast it can take centuries for reforested areas to reach a similar capacity in carbon storage potential as that of intact old-growth forest stands.
Tropical forest loss rightfully deserves the attention it gets, and we are lucky here in BC to have equally amazing rainforest habitat. Given that we are living in a relatively rich part of the world compared to many tropical countries, it is remarkable that we are failing to do a better job of protecting the remaining rare and endangered ancient forests on Vancouver Island and inspire other parts of the world. Coastal temperate rainforests exist only in very small areas on the planet and very little intact areas are left. Solutions exist, for example, in the Great Bear Rainforest north of Vancouver Island. Increasing the area of forest protected and halting destructive logging practices are both vital to ensuring the continued survival of these ecosystems and for a diverse economy. They should be a primary concern to us all.
Alys Granados is a PhD student in zoology at UBC. She is working as an Intern for Sierra Club BC under UBC’s Biodiversity Research: Integrative Training & Education (BRITE) program. For her PhD, Alys is studying the effects of selective logging on plants and mammals in Malaysian Borneo. Previously, Alys completed a Masters at Concordia University in QC, where she studied park-people interactions in relation to human-elephant conflict in Cameroon. As an intern with Sierra Club, Alys will help with efforts to increase awareness about threats facing old growth forests on Vancouver Island.
Feature image by Andrew S. Wright
Destruction of the Island’s original old-growth rainforest is occurring three times faster than primary forest loss in tropical rainforests
Twenty-five international environmental organizations are calling for immediate action to protect and restore Vancouver Island’s endangered old-growth rainforest and its species diversity, carbon storage and benefits for a diverse economy including forestry, tourism and wild salmon in indigenous and non-indigenous communities on Canada’s west coast.
The call for action is an initiative of Sierra Club BC. “We are concerned that the BC government is not taking our global responsibility for Vancouver Island’s endangered rainforest seriously. Temperate rainforest ecosystems only exist on a miniscule portion of the planet but we are logging the original primary island rainforest three times faster than tropical rainforest is being destroyed,” said Jens Wieting, forest and climate campaigner with Sierra Club BC.
Globally, the loss of primary forests – characterized by ecological processes largely undisturbed by human activity – is threatening species, carbon storage and environmental services. In some countries this is primarily in the form of deforestation; in other countries such as Canada, this is primarily through the replacement of rich ancient forests with even-aged young forest. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, tropical countries showed an overall decline of 10 percent of their primary forest in the last 25 years (from 1990 to 2015).
Sierra Club BC’s data shows that between 1990 and 2015, Vancouver Island’s primary old-growth forest has declined by 30 per cent. The original extent of old-growth rainforest on Vancouver Island was 2,600,000 hectares, of which an estimated 1,082,000 hectares were remaining by 1990. By 2015 the remaining old-growth was reduced to 748,000 hectares, a decline of 30 percent over the course of just 25 years. Only about 10 percent of the biggest trees remain standing.
A 30 second time lapse map of Vancouver Island shows the ecological emergency of shrinking old-growth forests over a century of industrial logging:
The BC government does not share detailed information about the rate at which Vancouver Island’s old-growth rainforest gets logged. Available provincial information is superficial and exaggerates the percentage of remaining old-growth on Vancouver Island by excluding private land and including very poor productivity ecosystems with very small trees.
“Gaps in monitoring and reporting about the health of provincial forest ecosystems play a major role in poor forest management in BC such as overharvesting,” said Wieting. “Sierra Club BC has reported for many years as accurately as possible to fill this gap because the provincial government has not been fulfilling its duty to properly monitor and manage BC’s forests.” Sierra Club BC reports use publicly available forest cover data, filling gaps with Landsat classification, distinguishing the state of coastal old-growth by ecosystems in different regions, and comparing to the historic extent.
The call for action is also supported by a number of organizations from tropical rainforest countries. One of these organizations is SINFONÍA TRÓPICO in Colombia.
“A few days ago a mud avalanche killed more than 300 people in Putumayo, Colombia. These catastrophes are a consequence of climate impacts that have been intensifying in past years, paired with deforestation and forest degradation. Trees that helped avoid landslides were cut,”said Juan Pablo Castro with SINFONÍA TRÓPICO. “There is a grave disconnect between humans and nature that we can no longer ignore. Countries such as Colombia are under international pressure to protect the world’s tropical rainforests. We have similar expectations of countries in the Northern hemisphere such as Canada. Everyone needs to do their part. Protecting old-growth temperate rainforests that are threatened by clear-cuts like those on Vancouver Island is of paramount importance. Please protect them!”
The 2016 Great Bear Rainforest Agreements by First Nations governments and the BC 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 gave 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. Remaining intact rainforest areas imminently threatened by logging such as the Central Walbran and East Creek need immediate conservation measures.
There is one region of hope on Vancouver Island: The land use vision announced by the Ahousaht First Nation in January outlines a way forward for Indigenous stewardship in Vancouver Island’s most intact tracts of old-growth forest. Read about this great news in a piece by our Forest and Climate Campaigner Jens Wieting in The Tyee.
New protected areas and conservation measures for Vancouver Island must respect First Nations rights and interests, enable a transition to sustainable second-growth forestry and support diverse economic activities such as tourism and reduce carbon emissions.
The hectare numbers for remaining old-growth on Vancouver Island given in the press release include high, medium and poor productivity rainforest ecosystems (not very poor).
The percentage of remaining high and medium productivity old-growth ecosystems (without poor) is even smaller because these forests grow bigger trees and are therefore of greater interest for logging. Landscapes with the best growing conditions (High productivity, low altitude (<300m) and without significant slope (<17%)) have less than 10 percent remaining old-growth forests and less than 4 percent of these types of forest are protected from logging.
FAO information can be found in the following paper: “Status and trends in global primary forest, protected areas, and areas designated for conservation of biodiversity from the Global Forest Resources Assessment 2015.”
Learn more about our efforts to protect Vancouver Island’s endangered coastal rainforests.
Please donate today to help Sierra Club BC conserve and defend BC’s wild places and species.