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