Logging of BC’s grandest ancient forests continues as Old-growth Strategic Review panel submits recommendations to Province

Apr 30, 2020 | Media Release

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Ancient Forest Alliance points to logging of monumental trees in the Caycuse River watershed as evidence of urgent need for NDP government to enact immediate moratoria for BC’s most endangered forest types and sweeping changes based on science to protect old-growth forests.

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Victoria, BC – Conservationists with the Ancient Forest Alliance are calling for both immediate and longer-term steps to protect old-growth following the logging of some of Vancouver Island’s grandest ancient forests along Haddon Creek in the Caycuse River watershed. The urgent call coincides with the deadline for a government-appointed panel to submit recommendations to the Province following a six-month-long Old Growth Strategic Review.

Earlier this month, Ancient Forest Alliance (AFA) campaigner and photographer TJ Watt found scores of giant trees cut down in the Caycuse watershed, including monumental redcedar trees over 11 feet in diameter, some of which had previously been photographed by Watt while still standing. 

“This grove has an exceptionally large number of massive, ancient cedars,” stated AFA campaigner and photographer, TJ Watt. “Without question, it’s one of the grandest forests on the South Island, rivalling the renowned Avatar Grove near Port Renfrew or the Walbran Valley, which lies a short distance to the south. In 2020, we shouldn’t be logging globally rare ancient forests such as these and converting them to ecologically inferior tree plantations.”

An incredible old-growth redcedar tree within an active logging cutblock.

The grove stands within a 33.5 hectare cutblock in Tree Farm Licence 46 near Haddon Creek, where logging company Teal-Jones is actively working. Combined with several other cutblocks nearby, a total of 71.5 hectares (more than 70 football fields) of exceptional old-growth has or will be logged along Haddon Creek and one of its tributaries.  

Located southwest of Cowichan Lake and east of Nitinat Lake in Ditidaht First Nation territory, the Caycuse Watershed was once a prime example of ancient coastal rainforest, but has been heavily logged over the past several decades. Now, as the BC government deliberates on how to better manage the province’s dwindling old-growth forests, Teal-Jones is targeting the highest-value stands remaining in the region.

“There is an extreme sense of urgency because we’re rapidly losing the small percentage of “big-tree” forest that remains unprotected on Vancouver Island,” stated Watt. “As the Province assesses the old-growth panel’s findings and decides which recommendations it may or may not implement, trees upwards of a thousand years old are being cut at alarming rates, never to be seen again. Forest Minister Doug Donaldson needs to act quickly and decisively to ensure their protection.”

A massive old-growth redcedar tree cut down by logging company Teal-Jones.

In response to growing pressure from British Columbians to address the mismanagement and over-exploitation of the province’s old-growth forests, in October, the BC government convened an independent, two-person panel to conduct an Old Growth Strategic Review, which included seeking public, stakeholder, and First Nations’ feedback on how BC should best manage old-growth. The panel’s report and recommendations are due to be submitted to Premier and Cabinet today, following which the BC government will undertake further consultations with the goal of developing a new provincial Old Growth Strategy.

The BC government plans to wait up to six months to publicly release the panel’s recommendations and the Province’s proposed new policy direction. 

“We look forward to seeing the panel’s report, which must be made public much sooner…time is of essence as many of the forests in question are being logged right now,” stated AFA campaigner Andrea Inness. “We expect to see strong recommendations, based on the scientific evidence presented to the panel, and are looking to the BC government to quickly implement sweeping changes to protect ancient forests before the next election.” 

“For example, the government needs to place an interim halt on logging in old-growth ‘hotspots’ and BC’s most endangered forest ecosystems while they work to develop their proposed Old Growth Strategy, which must include new or amended legislation that protects old-growth forests based on the latest science. The BC government’s long overdue Big Tree Protection Order must also be implemented to protect BC’s biggest trees with buffer zones as well as the province’s grandest groves, otherwise the greatest stands will be lost in the meantime.”

A redcedar tree that was approximately 800 years old cut before recently being cut down.

“Many of the trees we located and measured in this cutblock would’ve likely qualified for protection under the BC government’s proposed Big Tree Protection Order, which they announced in July 2019 and promised would be implemented by December, 2019,” stated Watt. “So far, the BC NDP have only protected 54 of BC’s biggest trees. Much more urgently needs to be done to protect monumental trees, the grandest groves, and entire old-growth forest ecosystems.” 

“In this time of unprecedented health and ecological crises, as experts around the globe are urging governments to halt ecological destruction and biodiversity loss in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, it’s even more critical that BC be a leader in conservation and protect what remains of our endangered old-growth forests for the benefit, health, and prosperity of all.”

Old-growth cutblocks totalling more than 70 hectares along Haddon Creek.

Background information

Old growth forests are integral to British Columbia for ensuring the protection of endangered species, climate stability, tourism, clean water, wild salmon, and the cultures of many First Nations. At present, over 79% of the original productive old-growth forests on BC’s southern coast have been logged, including well over 90% of the valley bottoms where the largest trees grow.  Only about 8% of Vancouver Island’s original old growth forests are protected in parks and Old Growth Management Areas. 

See maps and stats on the remaining old-growth forests on BC’s southern coast at: www.ancientforestalliance.org/old-growth-maps.php

The AFA is calling on the BC NDP government to protect the ecological integrity of BC’s old-growth forests while maintaining jobs and supporting communities by: implementing a science-based plan to protect endangered old-growth forests; providing financial support for First Nations’ sustainable economic development as an alternative to old-growth logging and formally recognizing First Nations’ land use plans, tribal parks, and protected areas; creating a provincial land acquisition fund to purchase and protect endangered ecosystems on private lands; and curbing raw log exports and providing incentives for the development of value-added, second-growth wood manufacturing facilities to sustain and enhance forestry jobs.

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Working to protect BC’s endangered old-growth forests and ensure a sustainable, second-growth forest industry.