FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
January 3, 2019
As Brazil’s new president Jair Bolsonaro acted immediately to remove protections for the country’s rainforest after taking office this week, Sierra Club BC called for increased protection of globally important rainforests and warned that Vancouver Island’s productive ancient rainforests are being destroyed three times faster than Brazil’s Amazon rainforest.
Global concern about the future of the Amazon is growing as President Bolsonaro has declared he wants to open large areas of the rainforest for extraction of natural resources and limit further protection of the lands of Indigenous peoples.
As of 2018, about eighty per cent of Brazil’s Amazon rainforest remains intact (compared to pre-1970). In the last twenty-five years, close to ten per cent of the rainforest was destroyed (3.7 million square kilometres remained in 1993 and 3.3 million square kilometres remained in 2018).
On Vancouver Island, only about a fifth of the original productive old-growth rainforest remains unlogged. More than thirty per cent of what remained standing in 1993 has been destroyed in just the last twenty-five years (684,000 hectares or thirty-one per cent in 1993 and 469,000 hectares or twenty-one per cent in 2018).
“Bolsonaro’s rise to power is a huge threat for the future of rainforests, biodiversity, Indigenous rights and our climate. It’s also a reminder that B.C. is not taking its global responsibility seriously. Like Brazil, we need to safeguard remaining intact rainforests and the life support systems we all depend on before it’s too late,” said Jens Wieting, Sierra Club BC’s senior forest and climate campaigner.
“The world needs to push back on Bolsonaro’s assault on Indigenous rights and Brazil’s globally significant rainforests. One thing we can do here in B.C. is to set a strong example of rainforest protection that respects Indigenous rights and title while creating new jobs and improving second-growth forestry. The Great Bear Rainforest Agreements showed solutions for healthy rainforests and healthy communities are possible.”
Sierra Club BC is calling for immediate action to protect remaining intact rainforests and endangered ecosystems to safeguard threatened species, Indigenous values and a livable climate.
Globally, the loss of primary forests—forests that are largely undisturbed by human activity—is threatening species, carbon storage, clean air and clean water. In some countries this is mainly due to deforestation; in other countries such as Canada, this is mainly through the replacement of rich ancient forests with even-aged young forest.
BC’s temperate rainforests represent the largest remaining tracts of a globally rare ecosystem covering just half a per cent of the planet’s landmass. Yet the current rate of old-growth logging on Vancouver Island alone is more than three square metres per second, or about 34 soccer fields per day.
On average, temperate rainforests store more carbon than tropical rainforests, helping to slow down global warming. When left intact, they are relatively resilient and less vulnerable to climate impacts such as fire and insect outbreaks compared to other forests.
The NDP’s 2017 election platform included a commitment to act for old-growth, promising to take “an evidence-based scientific approach and use the ecosystem-based management of the Great Bear Rainforest as a model.” But the B.C. government has not yet taken any meaningful steps to protect endangered coastal and inland old-growth ecosystems outside the Great Bear Rainforest.
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2018 aerial photographs of clearcut logging on Vancouver Island: https://www.flickr.com/photos/94279740@N07/sets/72157698359993961
Map showing Vancouver Island old-growth rainforest logging 1993-2018:
2018 Sierra Club BC data table showing loss of productive coastal old-growth temperate rainforest and levels of protection on Vancouver Island and Clayoquot Sound:
Amazon figures are based on estimates by the Brazilian National Institute of Space Research (INPE) and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) for the Brazilian Amazon, which accounts for roughly sixty per cent of the Amazon rainforest. https://rainforests.mongabay.com/amazon/deforestation_calculations.html
Senior Forest and Climate Campaigner, Sierra Club BC