Oldest living trees in Canada placed on the chopping block by B.C. government agency
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
February 21, 2019
Environmental groups Elphinstone Logging Focus (ELF) and Sierra Club BC are calling on the B.C. government to direct its logging agency, B.C. Timber Sales (BCTS), to cancel a proposed cut block on the Sunshine Coast. The cut block contains stands of ancient trees, one of which has been found to be 1,036 years old.
Located in Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) territory, the area known as the “Dakota Bowl Bear Sanctuary” is part of BCTS Block A87126. The forty-six hectare area in the Dakota Valley, which drains into Howe Sound, contains hundreds of red and yellow cedar trees that could qualify as “Coastal Legacy Trees” and “Monumental Trees” under BCTS’ own guidelines for best management practices, considering their age, size and cultural significance. The area is also known to have a high density of black bear den sites.
Yellow cedars are known to be some of the oldest living trees in the world as a result of their disease resistance and their tendency to grow in sub-alpine zones where they are not subject to forest fires. The oldest recorded tree in Canada was a yellow cedar that grew in the Caren Range on the Sunshine Coast before it was felled by loggers in the 1980s. It had a ring count of 1,835 years.
In 2014, Elphinstone Logging Focus hired Snowline Research to conduct tree coring of yellow cedars in the Dakota Valley area. The oldest recorded sample was 1,036 years old and the next oldest was 675 years old. Both were found in the same stand. Measurements of the diameters of thirteen trees showed that eleven trees meet the BCTS definition of “Legacy Trees.” The cedars also contain a high density of black bear den sites documented in a 2015 field study conducted by Wayne McCrory.
“To gain access to this remote area would involve roadbuilding on very steep slopes. This remoteness has protected the area all this time, creating a cultural and natural time capsule,” said Ross Muirhead, forest protection campaigner with Elphinstone Logging Focus. “This forest has several overlapping values all documented by professionals that make it unique—to log it would be a travesty.”
BCTS planned this block before it developed rules to set aside legacy and monumental trees. Since the block has not been sold yet, BCTS should act on its 2017 Best Management Practices for Coastal Legacy Trees and Large Cultural Cedar Field Data Collection guidelines that call for retaining large cedars and work with local First Nations who depend upon large cedar trees as part of their culture.
Both groups are calling for the province to cancel logging plans for Block 87126 and set it aside as an Old Growth Management Area (OGMA) with permanent boundaries to ensure long term protection.
“There is no economic, political or moral justification for logging these ancient trees. In 2018 targeting rare, endangered forests like this is akin to the trophy hunting of rare and endangered animal species. Under no circumstance should this violation of natural law be an acceptable way for the government to put money in public coffers,” said Mark Worthing, conservation and climate campaigner with Sierra Club BC. “These types of forests are exactly what we need to leave standing for climate resiliency and carbon storage. Logging these last stands of ancient forest is nothing less than a climate crime.”
“With solutions readily available and the best available science telling us otherwise, to log these rare ancient trees is a complete contradiction of the government’s own commitments and mandate,” said Worthing.
Solutions are possible. By implementing a science-based conservation and ecosystem-based management approach that respects Indigenous rights and title, the provincial government can support sustainable forestry jobs while conserving intact forests to defend B.C. communities from increasing climate impacts like floods and wildfire.
Photos of ancient trees in BC Timber Sales Block A87126 are available at: http://www.loggingfocus.org/campaigns/dakota-bowl-bear-sanctuary-needs-protection/
For more information on logging in BCTS cut blocks: https://sierraclub.bc.ca/enviro-groups-and-indigenous-leaders-condemn-logging-of-rare-old-growth-rainforest-by-bc-government/
Forest Protection Campaigner
Elphinstone Logging Focus
Conservation and Climate Campaigner
Sierra Club BC