A British Columbia agency is proposing to log the province’s last ancient stands of old-growth forest “to oblivion”, Elphinstone Logging Focus (ELF) and Sierra Club BC warned in a release last week.
The groups’ review of BC Timber Sales’ (BCTS) sales schedule “found the provincial government agency is proposing cutblocks across the last intact old-growth rainforest areas on Vancouver Island, adding up to more than 1,300 hectares,” Sooke Pocket News reports. “The area, equivalent to the size of more than three Stanley Parks, is intended to be auctioned for industrial clearcutting in 2019.”
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The majority of the cutblocks “target intact, productive rainforest ecosystems that have only a fraction of their original extent remaining,” the paper adds. “These areas are at high risk of losing the plant and animal species that depend on them.”
“Logging 1,300 hectares of scarce, carbon-rich, old-growth forest is about the worst action a B.C. government agency could take for climate change mitigation and forest resilience on Vancouver Island,” said ecologist Dr. Jim Pojar, author of a recent report on forestry and carbon. “These clearcuts will release hundreds of thousands of tonnes of carbon dioxide, and destroy more temperate rainforest and diverse forms of life.”
The majority of the cutblocks contain forests that are 140 to 250 years old. “This means they have not previously been logged by industry and have most of the features of old-growth stands older than 250 years,” Pocket News notes. “As big trees older than 250 years become increasingly rare, trees older than 140 years become more important to protect as remaining habitat for old-growth dependent species like marbled murrelets and spotted owls.”
“Vancouver Island’s ancient rainforests have helped sustain Indigenous cultures, a vast array of plants and animals, and a stable climate since the last ice age. The province shouldn’t risk eliminating rare species and plant communities across these blocks,” said ELF forest campaigner Ross Muirhead.
“Destroying the last great old-growth stands is a huge mistake that will be looked back upon by future generations as a huge travesty,” he added. “Remaining intact forests are needed to create linkages within highly fragmented landscapes and avoid tipping points when it comes to climate change and species extinction.”
While B.C. has yet to release details on the proposed cuts, Sierra Club B.C. says the province continues to log old-growth forest at a rate of three square metres per second, or about 34 soccer fields per day.
“B.C.’s forest stewardship amounts to flying blind into terminating the old-growth web of life,” said senior forest and climate campaigner Jens Wieting. “Instead of liquidating the last ancient stands, B.C.’s forest stewardship should be focused on supporting good, long-term jobs in sustainable second-growth forestry and supporting First Nations that seek to protect more forests in their territories.”