In contrast, in Clayoquot Sound, most of the region’s ancient forests remain standing with little change.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 29, 2023
VANCOUVER/UNCEDED xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (MUSQUEAM), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (SQUAMISH) AND səlilwətaɬ (TSLEIL-WAUTUTH) TERRITORIES – On the 30th anniversary of the historic Clayoquot Sound mass arrests in the summer of 1993, the latest data and a new Sierra Club BC map show that 35 percent of the productive old-growth rainforests that were standing on Vancouver Island in 1993 have been destroyed in the last 30 years.
The new map and data are being released during an unprecedented drought and wildfire season in B.C., with the highest ever recorded area burned, fueled by the climate crisis and exacerbated by large-scale industrial degradation of forest landscapes. Temperate old-growth rainforests are considered the most resilient and carbon-rich type of forest in B.C., with the best chance of withstanding the risk of fire, heatwaves, droughts, and floods.
But what remains of them is shrinking every year, converted into short-rotation plantations that cannot withstand severe climate impacts and never fully recover from biomass and carbon losses. Based on the most recent annual provincial data 38,300 hectares of old-growth forest were logged across the province in 2021, equivalent to 147 soccer fields per day. On Vancouver Island only about a fifth of the original big tree old-growth forests that existed before large-scale logging started are still standing.
Thanks to the leadership of the region’s First Nations, the state of the forest looks dramatically better in the Clayoquot Sound region covering about eight percent of Vancouver Island. Here, in the territory of the Ahousaht, Tla-o-qui-aht, and Hesquiaht First Nations, most of the original big tree old-growth forests that existed before large-scale logging started remain standing today (56 percent), with little change in the last 30 years (less than seven percent reduction since 1993).
First Nations in this region have regained greater decision-making power and are engaged in various stages of planning and determining land use and conservation designations. But only a portion (17 percent) of this region’s forest has protection under provincial and federal designations and the majority of the region’s old-growth rainforest remains without effective legal protection from logging. The Ahousaht First Nation shared a land use vision in 2017 and the Tla-o-qui-aht have declared Tribal Parks to protect forests from logging and other destructive use since 1984. A temporary old-growth logging deferral has been in place since 2020 but talks about lasting solutions are still underway.
“It is disturbing to see how much old-growth has been lost across the Island and other parts of the coast just in the last few years, especially considering the role of these forests in the fight against climate change,” said Saya Masso, lands and resource director for the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation. “It gives me hope that Clayoquot Sound remains the largest cluster of intact rainforest valleys on Vancouver Island. It also means the First Nations, provincial and federal governments share a huge responsibility and urgency to ensure that regional projects like Tribal Parks, land use visions and economic development to support conservation result in lasting solutions that can inspire other parts of the province in the near future.”
In 2020, the B.C. government promised to work with First Nations across the province to follow through on all recommendations from the provincial Old Growth Strategic Review and implement its three-year framework outlining a paradigm shift in forest stewardship to protect biodiversity. However, the most recent provincial data showed stable old-growth logging rates for the period of 2019 to 2021, and none of the recommendations have been implemented yet.
“Whether we look to Vancouver Island or across the province, there is extensive industrial devastation and there are landscapes of hope. But in too many cases, logging remains the default and conservation the exception. A breakthrough to reverse this pattern and safeguard our best ally in the fight against the climate emergency will require much greater support from provincial and federal governments to overcome deeply entrenched industrial logging interests,” said Jens Wieting, senior forest and climate campaigner with Sierra Club BC. “Few places in this province are more prepared for such a breakthrough than Clayoquot Sound.”
Saya Masso, lands and resource director, Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation
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Jens Wieting, Senior Forest and Climate Campaigner, Sierra Club BC,
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Featured photo by Wayne Barnes.