Dr Rachel Holt on wildfires and old growth: fact vs fiction

Photo: Siobhan Williams

Although we share this video with Rachel’s permission, Rachel is an independent ecologist and Wildsight was not otherwise involved in her talk’s preparation or presentation.

In this presentation to the Columbia Shuswap Regional Distract (CSRD), ecologist Dr Rachel Holt addresses misinformation about the relationship between wildfires and old growth forests in British Columbia.

Rachel’s presentation was prompted by a talk given by Archie Macdonald to the CSRD, and an article in the Salmon Arm Observer about that talk, and in which he claimed that, “as well as providing too much fuel for wildfires, old forests offer less diversity and are more susceptible to disease, pests and drought.” Archie agued that the solution lies in forestry management practices that create younger and ‘healthier’ forests that are less dense, include more diversity and allow openings and meadows to develop.

In her presentation, Rachel draws on her own expertise and many different scientific studies to refute those claims. “There is no evidence that old growth burns more often than other ages of forest,” she says. In contrast, “intense plantation forestry, characterised by young forests and spatially homogenized fuels, are significant drivers of wildfire severity.”

Rachel is an independent ecologist with over three decades of experience working in the Kootenays. She was recently Vice Chair of BC’s independent watchdog on forest practices, the BC Forest Practices Board, as well as the board of the Columbia Mountains Institute of Applied Ecology. She also worked as a member of the Ministerial Technical Advisory Panel (TAP) on Old Growth, which was tasked with identifying old growth deferral areas for the province as recommended by the provincial Old Growth Strategic Review (2020).