Conservationists Welcome NDP Government’s Big Tree Protection Announcement, Set Sights on More Comprehensive Old-Growth Plan

Published: July 17, 2019
Posted in: Media Release
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Victoria, BC – The Ancient Forest Alliance (AFA) welcomes the NDP government’s announcement that it will protect 54 of the biggest trees listed on the BC Big Tree Registry with buffer zones and hopes for more comprehensive, science-based old-growth forest protection under the BC government’s proposed old-growth strategy.

 Ancient Forest Alliance campaigner and photographer TJ Watt hugs a 246.5ft (75m) tall Sitka Spruce in the Mossome Grove near Port Renfrew, one of the 54 old-growth trees that will be protected.

“We welcome this positive step toward protecting some of the biggest and oldest trees on Earth,” stated Ancient Forest Alliance campaigner Andrea Inness. “It’s a small step, but it may signal there’s more comprehensive action to come.”

“The BC government’s old-growth plan must now be scaled up exponentially. We need protection at all spatial scales: at the tree, grove, landscape unit/watershed, and ecosystem level.”

“We’re glad to hear the 54 trees will be protected with buffer zones, which, although small in this case at only one hectare, are vital to minimize the risk of damage due to factors exacerbated by surrounding harvesting activities, such as strong winds, and to enhance ecosystem protection and tourism value.”

“The NDP’s approach to protecting big trees should not be based only on trees listed on the BC Big Tree Registry, though, which is a small subset of BC’s biggest trees based on what some big tree enthusiasts have found. Many of BC’s biggest trees are not on the big tree registry.”

The AFA also welcomes the NDP’s commitment to change regulations later this year to protect more of BC’s biggest trees. If effective, such a legal mechanism would help protect the environmental, recreational, and cultural values of BC and could bolster BC’s tourism industry, significantly enhancing the province’s status as a preferred destination for nature-lovers far and wide.

A tree climber dangles from Canada’s second largest Douglas-fir tree, the Big Lonely Doug–one of the 54 old-growth trees that will be protected under a new Forest Act protection measure implemented by the BC government. 

“It’s important they get the details right, though,” stated AFA campaigner and photographer TJ Watt. “These regulatory protections must include adequate buffer zones of at least 2 hectares and must avoid loopholes that allow big trees to be logged in certain circumstances. The minimum size thresholds for protection should also be lowered, as 50% of the diameter of the widest trees found still only captures the most extremely rare, exceptionally big trees.”

“It must also be a comprehensive policy that’s rolled out across BC’s coast and expanded to the Interior.”

The AFA is hopeful the NDP’s big tree protection regulations will also be expanded to include protection of BC’s “grandest groves,” where there is an exceptional number and density of large trees, to ensure ancient forests with the greatest ecological, recreational, and scenic values are conserved for future generations to enjoy.

“BC’s biggest trees and grandest groves truly stand out as some of the province’s most spectacular natural assets and are disproportionately valuable for tourism and often for biodiversity. But much more work is needed to protect old-growth forests on a much greater scale.”

“A more comprehensive, legislated plan is still desperately needed to protect the province’s old-growth ecosystems on a larger scale in order to sustain biodiversity, clean water, and the climate,” stated Inness.

The AFA is hopeful the NDP government’s consultation process and resulting old-growth strategy result in such legislated changes, for example, through amendments to the Forest and Range Practices Act in the spring of 2020.

“The next step, however, should be immediate moratoria on logging of old-growth ‘hotspots’ with the highest ecological and recreational value. Otherwise the grandest, most intact forests will continue to be whittled away while the government figures out its old-growth plan.”

“To sustain forestry jobs, the BC government must also ensure the development of a sustainable, value-added second-growth forest industry and end the export of vast amounts of raw, unprocessed logs to foreign mills.”

“Today’s announcement is like the bang of the starting gun at the beginning of the race. It kicks things off. Let’s just hope there are much more exciting things to come and that the NDP’s old-growth strategy is a sprint, not a marathon that drags on for years. Time is running out for the last of BC’s remaining productive old-growth forests and we need province-wide, science-based solutions fast.”

In the press release accompanying today’s announcement, the NDP government claimed that 55% of the old-growth on BC’s coast is protected. This figure is highly misleading for a number of reasons. The BC government is including vast areas of low-productivity sub-alpine and bog forests with little to no commercial value, which aren’t endangered, and are ignoring largely cut-over private lands, which make up almost 25% of Vancouver Island’s land base. They also lump the Great Bear Rainforest (where 85% of forests have been set aside from commercial logging) in with the south coast, where old-growth forests are highly endangered and where old-growth logging continues at a scale of about 10,000 hectares a year.

Ancient Forest Alliance campaigner and photographer TJ Watt stands next to one of the 54 old-growth trees that will be protected by the BC government, a giant Sitka spruce in the spectacular Mossome Grove near Port Renfrew.

Finally, the BC government fails to mention how much old-growth has previously been logged on the south coast: almost 80% of the original productive old-growth forest and over 90% of the low elevation, high-productivity stands (e.g. the very rare, monumental old-growth stands currently being logged in the Nahmint Valley and other hotspot areas).

“By focusing only on the fraction of old-growth protected of the fraction remaining, the more old-growth forest that’s logged outside the 55% that’s protected, the higher that number rises,” stated Inness. “If all the unprotected old-growth forests are logged, the BC government could then make the claim that ‘100% of the old-growth forests on the coast are protected!’”

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