What Is An Old-Growth Forest

What is an old-growth forest?

BC is home to some of the world’s last remaining old-growth temperate rainforests which contain some of the largest and oldest living organisms on Earth. Trees here can grow up to 300 feet tall and 20 feet wide and live to be upwards of 2,000 years old! The world’s largest western red cedar, the Cheewhat Giant; the world’s largest Douglas-fir, the Red Creek Fir; and the country’s largest Sitka spruce, San Jo’s Smiley, are all found on Vancouver Island, BC. These forests are critically important ecologically, economically, and culturally and are not replicated by the second-growth tree plantations that are fast replacing them.

Why are old-growth forests important?

  • They’re home to unique wildlife and biodiversity, some of which are found nowhere else on Earth.
  • Provide clean water for communities, wild salmon & other wildlife.
  • Store vast amounts of atmospheric carbon to help fight climate change.
  • Support First Nations’ cultural values.
  • They are pillars of BC’s tourism industry.
  • They are important for human health and well-being.

What is the state of old growth in BC?

Old-growth forests were once abundant in British Columbia, but after more than a century of aggressive logging, less than 8% of the original, productive old-growth forests (sites that produce big trees) remain in BC today. Shockingly, these magnificent forests continue to be cut down to the tune of tens of thousands of hectares each year. The endangered old-growth forests that remain are a global treasure in urgent need of protection.

What conservation progress has been made?

Under relentless pressure from the Ancient Forest Alliance, the BC government has recently taken some great steps toward protecting old-growth forests after decades of mismanagement. These include appointing an independent science panel that identified 2.6 million hectares of the most at-risk old-growth forests that should be deferred from logging while long-term conservation plans can be developed; launching a 300-million-dollar conservation financing mechanism to support the creation of new Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas (this is key, as the support of local First Nations governments is a legal necessity for old-growth protection); committing to double the protected areas in BC from 15% to 30% by 2030; and most recently, signing a landmark BC Nature Agreement with the federal government and First Nations Leadership Council which will see over a billion dollars aimed toward the conservation, stewardship, and restoration of lands in British Columbia — a historic leap in the right direction! These are profound, game-changing achievements that deserve to be celebrated.

What still needs to be done?

Some critical policy and funding gaps remain that the province must address. These include making sure that conservation financing funds are now linked to protecting the most at-risk old-growth forests through “ecosystem-based targets.” Conservation financing should also be directed toward supporting sustainable economic development in First Nations communities in place of old-growth logging jobs and revenues. Short-term “solutions space” funding is also needed to help offset potential lost revenues for First Nations to help enable the deferral of the most at-risk old-growth forests in their unceded territories. Finally, any new protected area designations created by the province must also maintain proper standards and permanency (i.e. no commercial logging, mining, etc.).

Where can I visit old-growth forests?

On Vancouver Island, the town of Port Renfrew has become known as the “Tall Trees Capital of Canada.” It’s home to the famed Avatar Grove, Big Lonely Doug, Eden Grove, the Red Creek Fir, and other fabulous forests to visit. For the more adventurous traveller, the nearby Walbran and Carmanah Valleys offer incredible rainforest getaways. Cathedral Grove, en route to Port Alberni, is Canada’s most famous and visited old-growth forest, with its towering Douglas-fir trees and beautiful redcedars. Around Vancouver, be sure to check out some of the old-growth trails in Stanley Park and Lighthouse Park. For those in the interior of BC, Ancient Forest Provincial Park outside of Prince George is a wonder to behold!

How do I get involved?

The Ancient Forest Alliance is always looking for the support of individuals, groups, and businesses across the province as we lead the push to protect endangered old-growth forests. We encourage people to visit our website to learn more and join our newsletter to keep up to date with the latest pictures, videos, and stories! You can also search and follow us on our social media channels, whether it’s Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, etc.

After more than a decade of hard work, our efforts are starting to pay off in major ways, so join us as we work to finally preserve these ancient and irreplaceable ecosystems for generations to come!

Written by TJ Watt – Ancient Forest Alliance

Politics of Place

How do we reframe the conversation of sustainability?

In 1996, my Master’s Thesis at the University of Calgary explored the concept of sustainability. It included terms in the glossary such as biodiversity crisis, ecological sustainability, ecosystem management, landscape and resource approaches and Western value systems. I look back on this work and ask myself, have we made any progress in understanding what we are trying to sustain? 

In the early 1990s, when writing the thesis, global warming and climate change were not part of the mainstream narrative. Nor were the scientific warnings that humanity would be approaching the limits of a finite planet by the 21st century. Perhaps this was because we were focused on a conventional, unsustainable expansionist worldview in which nature was valued as a resource for human use. Today, the dualist set of values that separate humans from the natural world, normalized in modern society, is devastatingly affecting the planet’s ability to support humanity.

While the concept of sustainability has been around for a very long time, it was in 1987 when the Bruntland report coined the term “sustainable development,” giving impetus to economic conditions and opportunities to protect the environment and meet the needs of current and future generations. Within this context, balancing the social, economic, and ecological dimensions of sustainable development was deemed necessary to address the problematic development trajectory that humanity was pursuing.  

However, for the past three decades, economic valuation systems focused on short-term growth and profit maximization have needed to catch up in accounting for the value of a healthy planet and the well-being of humanity over the long term. The result is that we are currently pushing up against the limits of a finite planet with only a tiny window of time to correct our trajectory and embrace a world in which we wish to live now and in the future.

Where do we go from here? While the political dimension of sustainability is not highlighted in the literature, it is an essential consideration if we are serious about pursuing sustainability as a framework for the future. The political decisions made today about safeguarding biodiversity, ecosystem health and species at risk need to be actionable locally to avoid the devastating outcome of the sixth extinction at the global level.

As many have suggested, there is still time to turn things around, but it will require transformative change – a paradigm shift. This is not without complications, as many societies and institutions globally and locally have different understandings of sustainability as a concept and how it should be achieved. Let’s face it: sustainable development is a muddy term open to interpretation. Fundamentally, questions of what we value and what we want to sustain play an important role in understanding and improving our planetary conditions.            

In December 2022, countries gathered in Montreal at the UN Biodiversity Conference (COP 15) to finalize a global agreement to halt and reverse biodiversity loss by 2030. In Canada, only two provinces, Quebec and British Columbia, have committed to protecting 30% of their provincial land base by 2030.  

The nearly million square kilometres of B.C is not mapped correctly or understood. How can we make good decisions about habitat protection and biodiversity if we don’t know what is happening in the landscape holistically? To address this concern, the province of British Columbia allocated $38 million in April 2023 to support a LiDAR data-based mapping program of landscapes for all of B.C. While a more modern mapping tool is helpful, it is only as good as the following political decisions. For too long, B.C. has prioritized timber supply over other values on the land base, such as ecosystem protection or species at risk.

If we are serious about meeting the goals of biodiversity, ecosystem resiliency, species at risk and mitigating climate change, we must rethink land use decisions. Adopting a landscape approach that prioritizes biodiversity and ecosystem health requires better communications across governments, ministries, communities, and industries. In other words, we need to include the right people at the table.

The recently signed historic, tripartite agreement between the BC government, Federal government, and First Nations leaders, valid until 2030 and supported by $1 billion in joint funding, will hopefully transform how land use decisions are made in B.C. The agreement includes commitments to conserve enough old-growth forests “to support the recovery of 250 spotted owls and restore 140,000 hectares of degraded habitat within the next two years” (The Narwhal). This agreement is significant and timely in supporting commitments to protect 30 percent of the land base in B.C. by 2030. It also highlights the importance of money, partnerships, and political will in transforming the direction of biodiversity and ecosystem health decisions.  

In 2023, I am hopeful that we are finally on the path to overhauling how land is managed in B.C., and a new collaborative framework will result in a paradigm shift that values nature conservation.    

Robin Reid
Retired Associate Professor, Tourism Management Department
Faculty of Adventure, Culinary, Arts and Tourism
Thompson Rivers University

Summer Arrives Early

BLBCA member lodges are transitioning early

With warm weather upon us, many lodges are already open. Don’t miss your chance to grab a spot and get your headstart on a thrilling BC summer.

As the days get warmer and the snow melts away, members of the Backcountry Lodges of British Columbia Association (BLBCA) are preparing for the upcoming summer season. This involves long hours of hard work, planning, and preparation to ensure that visitors have a safe and enjoyable experience.

The first priority of the BLBCA is to ensure that the lodges are safe and comfortable for guests. Members of the BLBCA inspect the buildings for any damage caused by the winter weather. They check electrical systems, plumbing, and other mechanical components to ensure that everything is functioning properly. Additionally, they ensure that furniture, bedding, and other amenities are in good condition, clean and well-maintained.

An essential job of the lodge staff is to ensure that hiking trails are secure and free of obstacles. They carefully remove any downed trees or obstructions in the path, repair damage caused by erosion, and update trail signs for hikers. Lodge staff keep an eye on animal behaviour and may close off some areas or trails if necessary. This helps to ensure the safety of visitors and wildlife while allowing people to enjoy their adventure.

In addition to standard trail maintenance, members of the BLBCA also need to ensure that their lodge is properly stocked for visitors. This includes having a supply of sumptuous food, fuel, and other necessities, such as recreational gear (climbing, hiking, SUPing, mountain biking) needed for whatever activity you are participating in, first-aid kits, and bear spray.

Of course, being prepared for the summer season also means being aware of the potential risks and challenges that may arise, such as wildfires, floods, and other natural disasters. It is essential for lodge members to be familiar with the possibility of human-wildlife encounters and to be well-prepared to address such issues in a humane, safe and responsible way.

Members of the BLBCA emphasize the importance of respecting the natural environment and viewing wildlife in their natural environs. Lodge members encourage visitors to enjoy the beauty of the backcountry without disturbing wildlife. #RecreateResponsibly is an initiative that encourages visitors to take responsibility for their actions and reduce their impact on the environment by practicing “leave no trace” habits.

By taking the necessary steps to prepare for the summer season, members of the BLBCA are ensuring that visitors will have a safe and enjoyable experience in the backcountry. With their commitment to #RecreateResponsibly, lodge members are helping to ensure that visitors can appreciate the beauty of the backcountry while protecting it for future generations.

Book at a BLBCA Member Lodge now, and don’t miss your chance to #unpluginBC.

Newest/Coolest Gear

As the technical editor for Ski Canada Magazine, it’s my job to know about the new gear for next winter before it arrives in stores. I test the latest jackets and boots, skis, and goggles. Basically, I call skiing work. Yeah, it’s a tough job. While my purview includes a lot of lapping groomers, backcountry skiing is my preference and the source of most of the growth in ski participation. So, it’s here where I get most excited and where most of the innovation is taking place. From more environmentally friendly ski construction to the ongoing quest for the perfect do-it-all boot to more breathable layering and new ideas in avalanche safety, there’s a lot of cool stuff in the pipe.

Some of it is available now. Some of it will arrive in stores in August and September. Either way, check in with your local retail shop to find out more about these cool products. Take it from a gear guy, talking about and thinking about new gear is a good salve when your next powder turn seems way too far away. Here’s some covetable gear to get you through the summer.

  1. A lighter slack country boot
    The first four-buckle boot from Dynafit is pursuing the Holy Grail: a powerful downhill performance that’s also light, comfortable and walkable. The Tigard is available in a 130 and 110 flex. The overlapping, three-piece shell design is the beefiest yet from the veteran touring brand, but it weighs in at a respectable for touring 1,500 grams for a 26.5 size. The Hoji Lock System integrates the ski-walk mode into the shell and cuff, reducing play on the down and easing foot entry and hiking. It allows a 70-degree range of motion for comfort on the up. ($1,000)
  1. A more environmentally friendly ski
    Atomic plans to overhaul the construction of its entire ski line to reduce the environmental impact of every model. It started with the 2023-2024 Backland family, including the 1,370 gram 95, a powder surfing, lightweight touring-focused ski. They switched to locally sourced poplar wood with hardwood inserts underfoot and a manufacturing process that reduces production waste. In total, they estimate the new process cut emissions by 30 percent. Atomic says they will continue to try to improve the process as they roll it out across their line.
  1. A ski for the 50 Project
    The QST Echo 106 is the ski Cody Townsend used last winter to continue ticking off objectives on his 50 projects, an effort to ski all the lines in the book “The 50 Classic Ski Descents of North America”. Salomon took their versatile QST 106 shape and lightened it up, both in weight and environmental impact. Construction includes a karuba and poplar wood core, basalt fibres, and cork. Thirty percent of materials are recycled, including the 100 percent recycled ABS sidewalls. At 1,760 grams, it’s not particularly light but if it’s good enough for Townsend…
  1. A jacket for the uptrack
    The right layering can help you ski farther and faster in more comfort. That’s the goal of the Patagonia Upstroke Jacket and its partner pant. The new Fall 2023 kit is a slightly burlier version of Patagonia’s Upstride kit. The Upstroke used a recycled polyester stretch-knit fabric backed by polyester. All that’s to say is it’s soft, highly breathable, and insanely stretchy. Two zipper pockets double as vents and another two fit skins. It’s our new favourite jacket for touring when it’s cool.
  1. A better way to reglue skins
    Most skiers only attempt to reapply skin glue once. It’s such a challenging and messy process few attempt it twice. Montana’s Big Sky Mountain Products heard our pain and is now offering skin re-gluing, likely the only service of its kind in North America. For about half the cost of a new pair of skins, skiers can send theirs directly to the company to have the old glue mechanically removed and the new glue applied. Check with a Big Sky retailer or online to find out more. Climbing Skin Reglue Service
  1. A recyclable ski
    G3 is threatening the future of ski benches and fences. The Vancouver-based brand has figured out how to make its skis recyclable. Until now the resins and glues used to hold the various parts of a ski together made it impossible to recycle and break them into their individual components (wood, metal, fiberglass, etc.) at the end of their life. G3 won’t divulge specifics, but it has figured out a way of unlocking the resin to make it possible to separate an old ski into its constituent pieces for reuse or recycling. It’s rolling out the construction across its line of skis, the G3 Recyclable Ski.
  1. A lifesaving vest
    Whether it’s an avalanche burial, tree well, or simple snow suffocation, people die every winter from running out of air when stuck in the snow. To help save lives Safeback is working on what it calls “the world’s first active air supply.” Either in a vest or pack, the device sucks air from the surrounding snow and pumps it around the face of the victim via two hoses. Safeback says it extends the average burial survival time from 15 minutes to more than 90. Safeback Avalanche Survival Gear
  1. An easier binding
    The Marker Cruise 12 is a classic-looking tech binding system but is easier to step into than most. A bumper helps align the toe into the right spot and the heel requires 30 percent less step in force than Marker’s Alpinist binding. The heel piece is also made from bio-based plastic mixed with carbon fibres and has both vertical and horizontal play for more predictable release values.
  1. A binding for the kids
    Lots of parents want to get their kids touring but are held back by heavy gear or the absence of junior-sized touring products. Marker’s new F5 JR Tour crosses off both problems. The frame style binding fits alpine or touring norm boots in sizes 23.5 to 30, offers low DIN settings of 1.5 to 5, and is one of the lightest frame bindings available.

Written by Ryan Stuartryan.stuart@shaw.ca / IG-@ryan_adventures
Award-winning, dependable, professional freelance writer for magazines, websites, and more.

Climbing at Selkirk Lodge

Our friends at Selkirk Lodge have been doing some amazing climbing this summer.

First they climbed the amazing summit of Mt. Moloch via its South Face – East Ridge route last week. During the climb they observed a huge rock slide, more likely from June 2015, that covered the entire Moloch Glacier below the failed Mt. Moloch East Face. Start zone 2850 m. elev, lowest point of avalanche deposit 1900 m. elev, distance ran 2.6 km, width of avalanche deposit 650 m. (entire glacier).