FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
June 4, 2020
An independent scientists’ report released today—B.C.’s Old-Growth Forest: A Last Stand for Biodiversity—shows in detail how shockingly little is left of B.C.’s most endangered old-growth forests, in particular those with very big trees. Of the little that remains, only a small fraction is protected from logging.
“This report shows that things are worse than we thought for B.C.’s ancient giants,” said Jens Wieting, Sierra Club BC’s forest and climate campaigner. “These big old and ancient trees existed for thousands of years and 100 years of industrial logging has cut all but three percent. Every natural system has a breaking point and we have reached it.”
Sierra Club BC supports the report authors in calling on the B.C. government to ‘stop the bleed’ and ‘immediately place a moratorium on logging in ecosystems and landscapes with very little old forest.’
“Only about 35,000 hectares of old-growth forests with very big old trees remain across the province, and only a portion have effective protection. We are losing a legacy and all the environmental services that these forests provide for community and human health,” said Wieting. “It is unconscionable that the last remaining big old trees are still being logged as a result of what the report authors call ‘loopholes, gaming, arithmetic errors and simple lack of monitoring.’”
The authors also found that many old-growth management areas, created to protect old-growth forests, do not actually contain old forest.
“In B.C. we have these globally unique old-growth forest ecosystems and our analysis shows they are almost at their endpoint,” said Dr. Rachel Holt, one of the scientists who wrote the report together with Dr. Karen Price and Dave Daust. “We wrote this report under our own steam because government information was either misleading or not making it out to the public. The current management approach utterly fails to protect the ecological health of productive old-growth. We need to change our approach and manage for resilience—for communities, jobs and ecosystems—and not wait to transition until the last big old trees are gone”
“These scientists have painted a stark picture and the fate of these big ancient trees is in our hands. The B.C. government has the opportunity to make conservation and environmental restoration a cornerstone of the COVID-19 economic recovery with a vision for healthy communities, healthy ecosystems and preventing future disasters,” said Wieting. “Investing in forest conservation and improved forestry will create long-term jobs, support the health and wellbeing of B.C. residents, and defend our communities from climate impacts like flooding and drought. This can be accomplished through support for Indigenous-led conservation solutions, ecosystem restoration, investments in government stewardship and a shift to ecoforestry.”
The report’s detailed analysis for all types of provincial forests shows that forests with big old trees never covered more than about ten percent of B.C.’s total forest cover (approximately 50 million hectares, more than half of the province). Only about eight percent (approximately 415,000 hectares) of the original extent of these intact forests with big trees remain as old-growth today across the province. In the case of those forests with very big old trees, only about three percent remain today (approximately 35,000 hectares).
Intact old-growth forests are more resilient than degraded forests and can best protect communities from climate impacts like water shortage, flooding, extreme rainfall and the dangers of landslides identified in B.C.’s 2019 Climate Risk Assessment Report.
The provincial government has opportunities to protect old-growth forests through COVID-19 economic recovery initiatives, logging moratoria, the creation of new protected areas, and amendments to provincial forestry laws and regulations that restore the ecological integrity of B.C.’s forests and close loopholes. Old-growth forests can also be protected by enacting a science-based old-growth strategy in response to the provincial old-growth panel review and implementing an endangered species act.
B.C.’s Old-Growth Forest: A Last Stand for Biodiversity: https://sierraclub.bc.ca/wp-content/uploads/bcs-old-growth-forest-a-last-stand-for-biodiversity-report-2020.pdf
Senior Forest and Climate Campaigner, Sierra Club BC
Photo: TJ Watt/Ancient Forest Alliance