FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Oct 25, 2018
Vancouver Island tourism businesses fear ‘supernatural’ B.C.’s international brand eroding
Together with representatives from Vancouver Island tourism businesses and local government, Sierra Club BC and Rainforest Rescue today delivered more than 185,000 names of concerned people around the world calling on the B.C. government to save B.C.’s last endangered ancient coastal temperate rainforest from clearcutting. Rainforest Rescue is a German environmental organization.
The most endangered old-growth rainforest with the biggest trees now only cover 6.5 per cent of the Island. Yet the current rate of old-growth logging on Vancouver Island alone is about 2 soccer fields per hour.
“The ongoing destruction of B.C.’s ancient rainforest undermines the positive image of Canada internationally,” said Mathias Rittgerott, spokesperson with Rainforest Rescue. “It’s shocking that British Columbia is destroying its last old-growth rainforest faster than destruction is happening in tropical rainforest countries. Protecting rare old-growth forests is a crucial step in fighting global warming and saving habitat of endangered species. There is no price tag for the value of these forests.”
“If this provincial government is serious about protecting species habitat and water, meeting climate targets, and supporting long term jobs in resource based sectors and tourism in rural communities, it must protect endangered ancient rainforest. We can produce high quality, high value wood and good jobs while protecting watersheds and our climate with strong forest stewardship and improved forest management,” said Laurel Collins, councillor-elect for the City of Victoria.
The international call for action and the ongoing clearcutting of Vancouver Island’s last old-growth rainforest worry Island tourism operators and experts.
“Tourists come to Vancouver Island to experience what is missing in so many other parts of the world: intact nature,” said Brian White, Professor at the Royal Roads University School of Tourism and Hospitality. “And yet what they find when they get here is big stumps, not big trees. We are seeing growing disappointment and disbelief among tourists, who also see the devastation of our old-growth forests on social media. Vancouver Island has a reputation as a world class tourism destination partly due to its magnificent ancient forests, but this reputation is getting damaged and we’re concerned about the impact on tourism businesses.”
Sent by 185,000 supporters of Rainforest Rescue to Premier John Horgan and Forest Minister Doug Donaldson, the letter calls on the provincial government to “not allow coastal rainforests and other old-growth forests to be completely and irreversibly destroyed,” to “impose an immediate moratorium on the logging of intact forests in hotspots such as the Central Walbran and other valuable areas on Vancouver Island and the mainland,” and to adopt solutions “based on the experience gained in the Great Bear Rainforest.”
“Opportunities to experience old-growth forests are increasingly rare in B.C. and particularly on Vancouver Island. Tourism businesses built around these experiences are sustainable year after year. The lack of consideration and foresight for other economic uses of these resources is a significant concern,” said Scott Benton of the Wilderness Tourism Association of B.C.
“Protecting what remains of our old-growth forests makes economic and ecological sense. We can cut these trees down only once, or we can benefit from them into the future by attracting visitors who love ancient forests and the biodiversity they support,“ said Dr. Russell Markel, Founder and President, Outer Shores Expeditions.
The international call for protection of B.C.’s last old-growth rainforest is echoed by tens of thousands of British Columbia residents who have already signed petitions launched by Sierra Club BC, the Wilderness Committee and the Ancient Forest Alliance. Most of the concerned citizens who signed the Rainforest Rescue petition are from Canada, the United States, Germany, France, Spain, Switzerland, Austria, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Italy, Belgium, Australia and Argentina.
“An international call for action from close to 200,000 people should be a wake-up call. Perceptions matter,” said Jens Wieting, senior forest and climate campaigner with Sierra Club BC. “We want people to think of ancient trees, not big stumps, when they’re deciding whether to visit Vancouver Island.”
In addition to jeopardizing B.C.’s tourism economy, the destruction of B.C.’s globally rare, endangered old-growth rainforests also threatens biodiversity and Indigenous cultural values. These big trees provide some of the best carbon sinks on the planet and irreplaceable long term economic value for tourism, recreation and businesses seeking locations with a high quality of life.
The NDP’s 2017 election platform included a commitment to act for old-growth, promising to take “an evidence-based scientific approach and use the ecosystem-based management of the Great Bear Rainforest as a model.” Following through on this promise would benefit the well-being of communities, biodiversity, clean air and water, long term forestry jobs and one of the world’s most efficient carbon sinks.
A modernized land use plan for Vancouver Island will require interim protection for remaining intact rainforest areas and the most endangered old-growth ecosystems to allow time for agreements that 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.
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Editors/Producers: Images of intact rainforest and clearcut destruction are available for use at the following link: https://www.flickr.com/photos/94279740@N07/sets/72157698359993961
Jens Wieting, Senior Forest and Climate Campaigner, Sierra Club BC, (604) 354-5312, firstname.lastname@example.org
Laurel Collins, Councillor-Elect for the City of Victoria, (778) 977-0977, email@example.com
Mathias Rittgerott, Rainforest Rescue, (604) 354-5312, firstname.lastname@example.org
Brian White, Professor, Royal Roads University School of Tourism and Hospitality,
(250) 216-2256, email@example.com
Scott Benton, Executive Director, Wilderness Tourism Association of B.C., (250) 655-4103, firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. Russell Markel, Founder and President, Outer Shores Expeditions, (250) 220-2311, email@example.com