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Old Forests Get Protection

Keri Sculland - Alberni Valley Times, August 5, 2010

Old Forests Get Protection
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The Nahmint Valley near Port Alberni has some of the last remaining tracts of unprotected old-growth Douglas fir forests.
Photo by TJ Watt

Old forests get protection

Keri Sculland, Alberni Valley Times

Published: Thursday, August 05, 2010

While the provincial government has sectioned off thousands of hectares to protect old-growth forests, none are located in the Alberni Valley.

The government sectioned off two types of old-growth forest on Crown land to preserve the natural trees and forestation. On the east side of the Island, about five kilometres were sectioned off to preserve the Coastal Douglas Fir Ecosystem, which is a rare type of ecosystem that only covers a small portion of the Island. Other parts of the Island in the northern central area and southern areas were also protected from future logging and land management.

The catch is, explained TJ Watt, forest campaigner from the Ancient Forest Alliance, these areas aren't legislative protected areas, they are regulatory protected areas, meaning the areas won't be considered provincial parks, like Cathedral Grove and the Pacific Rim Provincial Park.

"Unfortunately," he said, "it doesn't cover anything within the Alberni Valley... there is still a need to go further on protection for Vancouver Island."

The five parcels of Crown land between Nanaimo and Courtenay have been made off-limits to logging through new Land Use Orders. These new additions have increased protection in the Coastal Douglas Fir zone from 7600 hectares to 9200 hectares.

The ecosystem is characterized by its mild, Mediterranean-like climate, trees like the Douglas fir, Garry oak and arbutus, and large numbers of species at risk such as the alligator lizard and sharp-tailed snake.

Of the productive old growth on Vancouver Island, 75% of it has been lost. That includes the large trees and valley bottoms. Since 2004, 90% of the valley bottoms have been logged, and 99% of the big old-growth Douglas fir.

"There's an area we are pushing to have protected in the Nahmint Valley," Watt said. "Some of the last strands of Douglas fir are [there]."

Manager of economic development for the city, Pat Deakin, said he isn't aware of the old-growth conditions in Nahmint.

"Diversity is important," he said. "But it's not an end-all-be-all situation."

The Coastal Douglas Fir ecosystem is considered to be among the top four most endangered ecosystems in Canada, along with the Tallgrass Prairie in Manitoba, the Carolinian Forest in southern Ontario, and the "Pocket Desert" near Osoyoos in southern B.C.

"We could go much further than this," Watt added. "We are not against logging, we're basically stating that we should be protecting endangered old growth forests where they are scarce."

AFA also wants to focus on sustainable logging in second-growth forests, and a ban on raw log exports to create a value-added industry here.

"We've actually had a lot of forestry workers on our sides for those points," Watt said.

The new protection was implemented by the Ministry of Forests and Range, the Integrated Land Management Bureau and Forest Minister Pat Bell.


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