Why is Old Growth important?

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Photo: Doug Adama

Written by Kiana Froese

I am sure that you have all heard about the Fairy Creek Blockade and the Revelstoke Blockade (Revylution) which are attempting to protect the old-growth forests from being logged. However, it may come as a surprise, but Golden has pockets of old growth remaining in our surrounding forests that need protection too. They also used to be the home to many mountain caribou, now endangered.

These forests are part of our natural heritage we have an obligation to protect.  They are unique and irreplaceable. Old growth forests mitigate some of the environmental repercussions from society and industry that younger forests cannot match. Harvey Locke, member of the World Commission on Protected Areas, says, “Keeping temperate old-growth forests in British Columbia intact is important at every imaginable scale.”

8 reasons why we need to protect Old Growth:

  1. Biodiversity
    Old growth forests promote biodiversity and protect water systems while encouraging formation of healthy soil. Also, it is the home to many different plants and animals that cannot live in any other type of habitat.
  2. Indigenous People’s cultural values
    These forests have cultural significance for Indigenous communities. Judith Sayers, Nuu-chah-nulth tribal council president, says that, “our whole lives really, and a lot of our spirituality, is wrapped up in the forests.” They used these trees for thousands of years for tools, clothes, and ceremonial objects.
  3. Carbon sinks
    Research shows that old growth forests are the most effective carbon sinks. They hold large amounts of carbon. Once clear cut, the carbon is released back into the atmosphere. Protecting old-growth reduces emissions and keep the carbon where it should stay.
  4. Protection from climate change
    Old growth protects communities from forest fires, floods, and landslides. They are more resilient than young forests and can deal with climate change because of their elaborate structural and species diversity.  These old forests store more water than young forests, decreasing the rate that spring snowmelt and storm water enter the river.  Less sediment enters the waterways and water quality, fish habitat and property are protected.
  5. Unsustainable
    Old growth is being replaced by young, uniform forests that will never be able to grow old due to the short rotation of current forest management. Forestry jobs need better forest management and innovation in order for the industry to be sustainable for a long time.
  6. Extinction
    Many species-at-risk depend on old growth forests near Golden, including Mountain Caribou, Grizzly Bears, Wolverine, Whitebark Pine and Olive Sided Flycatchers.
  7. Future generations
     In a few decades, we have removed most of the low and mid elevation old growth forests in our area. This degraded  landscape reduces our quality of life and our ability to diversify the economy through tourism and recreation.
  8. Weakens reputation
    As the news of BC’s continuing logging of old growth forests spreads, B.C.’s “Super Natural” reputation is tarnished.  These unique old forests are significant on a global scale, yet our provincial government holds the responsibility for their stewardship.  We are a rich province, yet our laws protecting the environment are weak and our government has seemingly a lack of respect for these important forests.

Old growth doesn’t always look like what we see on the news and it is important to understand what it looks like near us to identify where it needs to be protected.

Old growth in the West Kootenay.

Here’s a photo of what old growth looks like near Golden:

Limber Pine, near Golden, BC