As we experience the climate emergency, find out why it’s so important to protect old-growth forests today!
B.C. clearcuts releasing more carbon than they absorb form a total area larger than Vancouver Island
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
December 12, 2019
For British Columbia, phasing out clearcutting—particularly in old-growth forests—with a transition to reformed forestry that prioritizes ecosystem services is as important for climate action as phasing out the use of all fossil fuels. This is the key finding of a new report and map by Sierra Club BC about the future of forests in B.C. that highlights the full impact of clearcut logging on climate change.
Areas clearcut across B.C. between 2005 and 2017 total 3.6 million hectares, a combined area larger than Vancouver Island. These areas—more than 1.9 million hectares of logged old-growth and close to 1.7 million hectares of logged second-growth—are “sequestration dead zones”: clearcut lands that release more carbon than they absorb.
For thirteen years after clearcutting, the carbon released into the atmosphere from decomposing organic matter and exposed soils is more than the carbon captured by the growth of young trees. In other words, it takes thirteen years for young trees to have a net effect of capturing carbon. In the meantime, clearcut areas remain “sequestration dead zones.”
“At a time when we urgently need to be reducing all forms of carbon pollution to defend our communities from the climate crisis, clearcut logging in B.C. is making the problem notably worse,” said Sierra Club BC’s senior forest and climate campaigner Jens Wieting and author of the report. “We can only have a stable climate if we protect intact forests, and we can only sustain intact forests if we stabilize the climate. Both are only possible if we reform forestry and give up clearcutting.”
According to the latest provincial data, annual emissions from logging are 42 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO₂). In addition, B.C. loses the carbon capture potential of the forests that are clearcut. Sierra Club BC’s analysis shows that, because of clearcutting, more than 26 million tonnes of CO₂ per year remain in the atmosphere that could have been removed had the forests not been clearcut. Taken together, the combined negative impacts of clearcut logging in B.C. on the climate are greater than officially reported provincial carbon emissions, which are about 65 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year, primarily from burning fossil fuels. This makes ending clearcutting as important for provincial climate action as phasing out fossil fuels.
Yet forest emissions are largely ignored because they are not counted as part of B.C.’s official emissions in provincial greenhouse gas inventories.
Based on the 2018 Special Report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), all jurisdictions must reduce by half emissions from all sources by 2030 to have a reasonable chance of preventing catastrophic global heating.
“Business as usual in forests will worsen the climate crisis,” said Wieting. “By clearcutting old-growth and older forests, we’re fuelling more global heating. We’re putting at risk the future of communities, the forests that remain standing and current and future forestry jobs. It’s not too late for the B.C. government to reform forestry laws so that forest stewardship helps in tackling the climate crisis.”
Sierra Club BC is calling for an end to fossil fuel subsidies and a funding shift towards forest conservation and improved forest management. Action is urgently needed before worsening climate impacts coupled with destructive logging practices further intensify pressure on ecosystems. Sierra Club BC’s recommendations are to:
- Protect and restore endangered old-growth forest ecosystems through forestry law reform, modernized land use plans and new Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas (IPCAs);
- Restore government capacity for monitoring and research, investment in restoration of intact forests and reforestation; and
- Support communities and companies that want to improve forest management and value-added wood products, creating more jobs and less damage per cubic metre of wood. Forests can be harvested selectively in a manner that reduces carbon losses to a minimum or retains more carbon in forests.
Globally, old-growth forests in B.C. are among the ecosystems with the highest carbon storage per hectare, and with the biggest and oldest trees.
“As the 25th UN climate summit ends this week, B.C. is maintaining its unfortunate reputation as the Brazil of the North. It’s turning Canada’s world class temperate rainforests from the coast to the interior into a Swiss cheese pattern of clearcuts at a time when the world needs global leadership on forest protections to comply with the Paris Climate Agreement,” said Dominick A. DellaSala, Ph.D, President and Chief Scientist of the Geos Institute in Ashland, Oregon.
“Local governments across Canada are reducing their emissions as quickly as possible. But given how much climate change will cost us, we also need to address the growing carbon losses and impacts that come from bad forestry practices,” said Rik Logtenberg, Nelson city councillor and chair of the Climate Caucus, a network of 240 elected local leaders across Canada. “Clearcutting the forests that surround our communities can have serious impacts on watersheds, dirtying drinking water and putting us at greater risk from flooding, landslides, droughts and wildfire. We need provincial leadership to reduce all emissions, including those from forestry, and we need reformed forestry laws to protect and restore forests as a natural defence against climate change.”
Clearcut Carbon: A Sierra Club BC report on the future of forests in British Columbia (full report and executive summary): www.sierraclub.bc.ca/clearcutcarbon
Editors/Producers: Photo and video footage of old-growth forests and forest destruction is located at https://drive.google.com/open?id=1ie48VmdMwCcVS9Q6GqbTDzxao_Fq1zUY
For media inquiries:
Jens Wieting, Senior Forest and Climate Campaigner, Sierra Club BC
Dr. Dominick A. DellaSala, President and Chief Scientist, Geos Institute
Rik Logtenberg, Nelson City Councillor and Chair, Climate Caucus
Photo: TJ Watt/Ancient Forest Alliance
In our latest report, we’ve found that ending clearcutting of forests is as important for BC climate action as phasing out fossil fuels.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
November 4, 2019
Ninety-two per cent of British Columbians support taking action to defend endangered old-growth forests, a new Research Co. poll has found.
The poll, which was commissioned by Sierra Club BC, revealed 62 per cent strongly support taking action.
These views are widely held across the province, with 90 per cent or more in southern B.C. and the Fraser Valley, 87 per cent on northern Vancouver Island and 83 per cent in northern B.C.
British Columbians also overwhelmingly believe it is important for the B.C. government to keep its election promise to take action on old-growth forests, including more protection for old-growth trees, less logging, partnerships with First Nations and support for a more diversified economy. Ninety-two per cent agreed with this statement.
About four in five British Columbians cited the following reasons to care about defending old-growth forests:
- Old-growth forests are important for First Nations cultural values;
- They give us clean water and help clean the air;
- Old-growth forests capture and store carbon from the atmosphere, which helps defend communities from the extreme weather caused by climate change;
- Many important and rare species depend on old-growth;
- Old-growth forests are globally rare and important, and should be protected as a legacy for future generations.
Sierra Club BC is calling on all levels of government to take immediate steps to defend endangered, carbon-rich old-growth forests and the vital environmental services they provide. Governments must transition to improved, truly sustainable forest management practices that work for people, communities and ecosystems and that respect Indigenous rights and jurisdiction.
“British Columbians care deeply about the endangered old-growth forests in this province, and want to do more to defend them,” said Sierra Club BC’s campaigns director Caitlyn Vernon. “The climate crisis means the provincial government must put the brakes on the rapid logging of endangered old-growth forests. We can protect big old trees and have sustainable forest jobs into the future, but only if we act quickly to increase protection and improve forest management.”
“The Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council are empowered to learn that such a high percentage of British Columbians want to see old-growth forest retained and recognize the immense value they have to all living things,” said President Judith Sayers of the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council. “The taking of the old-growth forests destroys our sacred places, ecosystems, medicinal plants and habitat for wildlife and if we managed our forests this would not happen. We call upon the B.C. government to work with Nuu-chah-nulth to manage these forests so we can all continue to benefit from their richness. Once B.C.’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act becomes law, the B.C. government must amend forestry laws and regulations to ensure the rights of the Nuu-chah-nulth in old-growth forests are respected so we might as well start that protection immediately.”
The B.C. government is currently amending provincial forestry laws, the Forest and Range Practices Act (FRPA), with amendments scheduled to be tabled in spring 2020.
Separately, the B.C. government has launched a new panel to gather feedback from British Columbians on old-growth forests. However, recommendations from this panel will not inform the FRPA amendments, they will not be shared until late 2020, and there is no commitment to bringing them into law.
“The B.C. government can avoid a ‘talk and log’ situation of ongoing old-growth forest destruction by taking bold action for old-growth in their FRPA amendments in 2020,” said senior forests and climate campaigner Jens Wieting. “Across the province, close to one Stanley Park’s worth of old-growth forest is cut down every single day. We must close loopholes and increase protection of endangered old-growth in existing forestry laws, to leave a legacy for future generations. A new old-growth panel is no substitute for immediate conservation of the most endangered old-growth forests before they’re destroyed.”
[Results are based on an online study conducted from September 25 to September 28, 2019, among 842 adults in British Columbia. The data has been statistically weighted according to Canadian census figures for age, gender and region in British Columbia. The margin of error—which measures sample variability—is +/- 3.4 percentage points, nineteen times out of twenty.]
Editors/Producers: Photo and video footage of old-growth forests and forest destruction on Vancouver Island is located at https://drive.google.com/open?id=1ie48VmdMwCcVS9Q6GqbTDzxao_Fq1zUY
Research Co. Factum: https://sierraclub.bc.ca/wp-content/uploads/Factum_OldGrowthPoll_Oct2019-1.pdf
Backgrounder on old-growth forests in B.C.: https://sierraclub.bc.ca/wp-content/uploads/OldGrowthBackgrounder_Nov2019v2.pdf
For media inquiries:
Communications Director, Sierra Club BC
President, Research Co.
Photo: Mya Van Woudenberg/Sierra Club BC
By Environmental Educator Kirsten Dallimore
Standing on a rocky beach in Port Hardy recently was quite a surreal experience for me. Although I have had the privilege to travel into a variety of beautiful communities here in British Columbia over my life time, the North Island took my breath away. I was raised in Ontario, but BC has always been such an important place in my life because I have family here, and I am drawn to and deeply connected with BC’s natural places. The North Island has been part of my “dream list” as far back as I can remember. Since I have a track record of exploring the Canadian north, it just made sense to me that sooner or later I was going to have to go north here on the island. Lucky for me, this spring was the year that the education programs were able to be delivered in both Port Hardy and on Malcolm Island!
Highlights from the Journey
Eco Art Club
It was a privilege to spend an afternoon facilitating an environmental education program with the Eco Art Club at Eagle View Elementary School in Port Hardy. These students have created such beautiful representations of mother earth through their art work, which they have displayed throughout their school. I truly admire the ocean theme they have embraced this year and wish them the best of luck in their endeavours to teach and support each other about the protection of our oceans! I look forward to working again in the future with the creative artists and inspiring young environmentalists who live in this community. During the workshop, the students embraced the opportunity to make observations and draw pictures inspired by an orca whale bone, butter clam shells, moon snail shells, deer and moose jaw bones, and local native plants such as salal, sword fern and oregon grape. We created art, shared nature stories, sang songs together and went for a beautiful walk and nature hunt exploration in their local forest.
Outdoor Learning Spaces
While I was teaching on the sunshine coast and the north island this spring, something special that I was able to really embrace and make use of throughout my journey were outdoor classrooms. Wherever there was a forest close by to the school, there had been a transformation of a small part of that forest into an inspirational outdoor learning space. The outdoor classroom space varied depending on the size of the forest, materials used for benches and nature play, exploration, and the distance they are from the school. The things that they all had in common were a central gathering place for students to meet, loose materials for kids to pick up and move around, and a variety of living and non-living things to explore and expand kids’ curiosity. It may be an ambitious hope for all schools here in BC to have access to a nature learning space on their school grounds or close by, but I do hope that one day it will be possible for every student to have access to a natural outdoor learning space.
I sincerely thank all of you for your continued support in our education programs. I look forward to coming back in the Fall for another year of full of amazing nature connection moments spent with kids across BC!