We’ve discovered that another swath of rare old-growth rainforest is slated for imminent destruction on Vancouver Island.
And as in the case of last year’s scandalous clearcuts in Schmidt Creek and in the Nahmint Valley, it’s again the responsibility of the BC government’s own logging agency.
BC Timber Sales (BCTS) plans to auction an area the size of more than three Stanley Parks for industrial clearcutting in 2019.
Together with Elphinstone Logging Focus (ELF), we analyzed BCTS’ sales schedule and found these proposed cutblocks add up to more than 1,300 hectares. The majority target intact productive rainforest ecosystems that have only a fraction of their original extent remaining. These areas are at high risk of losing the plant and animal species that depend on them.
Many of the cutblocks are near Sproat and Nahmint Lakes in Hupacasath and Tseshaht territories close to Port Alberni. Other areas are near Sayward (Ma’amtagila territory) and Gold River (Mowachaht/Muchalaht territory).
The B.C. government doesn’t share detailed information about how much old-growth remains in each ecosystem, how much is set aside or what a clear logging threshold should be to protect what’s left.
Government data do show, however, that the majority of the 1,300 hectares listed are forests with an age of 140–250 years. This means they have not previously been logged by industry and have most of the features of old-growth stands older than 250 years.
As big trees older than 250 years become increasingly rare, trees older than 140 years become more important to protect as remaining habitat for old-growth dependent species like marbled murrelets and spotted owls.
Yet Sierra Club BC’s data show that industrial old-growth logging continues at a rate of more than three square metres per second, or about thirty-four soccer fields per day.
Instead of liquidating the last ancient stands, B.C.’s forest stewardship should be focused on supporting good long term jobs in sustainable second-growth forestry and supporting First Nations that seek to protect more forests in their territories.
Recently, the B.C. government stated that it is working on an old-growth strategy. However, we’ve been waiting for details and timelines for months, including updates on what interim steps will be taken before almost all of the remaining endangered ancient forests are logged.
Despite the rapid ongoing loss of the remaining old-growth, the Minister did not offer any updates on additional protection for old-growth.
The B.C. government has introduced changes to forestry regulation. But it remains unclear whether it will use this opportunity to listen to concerned British Columbians and make the crucial improvements needed to protect endangered old-growth ecosystems and other ecological values from destructive logging.
At the end of March, BC’s Forest Minister Doug Donaldson explained in the B.C. Legislature that “there will be sustainable harvesting in old-growth forests on the coast.” He added that “we’re not considering a moratorium on old-growth logging.”
Unless the provincial government changes course to protect and restore what remains of endangered old-growth, communities will be left with ecologically impoverished tree farms that cannot sustain the web of life as we know it.
That’s why we’re urging the B.C. government to take immediate action for the well-being of Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities, for habitat of endangered species, clean air and water, long-term forestry jobs and to save one of the world’s most efficient carbon sinks.
We must start with protecting remaining intact rainforest areas imminently threatened by logging—such as the Central Walbran and East Creek—and using a science-based approach for protecting and restoring the remaining old-growth forest, starting with the most endangered ecosystems.
A comprehensive conservation and forest management plan for Vancouver Island and other parts of B.C. must respect Indigenous rights and interests, enable a transition to sustainable second-growth forestry, support diverse economic activities such as tourism, and reduce carbon emissions.
Feature image by Jens Wieting.