Old growth forests are vital for the survival of many different species, including several considered to be at-risk, and these forests are being logged at an alarming rate. The unique ecological conditions of an old growth forest that provide habitat for specialized species do not exist in young forests. These ancient forests support a complex array of plants and animals with relationships and biochemical attributes that science is only starting to understand.
Old growth forests in the Golden area include stands of Douglas Fir, White and Engelmann Spruce, White bark Pine, Cedar and Hemlock trees between 250 and 800 years old. In British Columbia, almost all of the easily accessible old growth forests outside of protected areas have been logged. The loss of these forests is contributing to the current global biodiversity and climate crises that we are experiencing. Crucial habitats are disappearing and they do not have the chance to re-establish. Old growth forests provide essential ecosystem services such as carbon sequestration, drinking water filtration, flood protection, as well as essential cultural ecosystem services such as aesthetic views and spiritual connection. These services, along with many more provided by old growth, are critical to preserve for the persistence of our human well-being.
Alongside everything that is said about halting the logging of old growth forests is the argument that the forest industry will collapse and jobs will be lost; this is an understandable economic fear. There should also be fear of mass extinction as a result of habitat loss, not having clean drinking water and flooding because these are the trade offs. Forest management policy needs to be a better balance of keeping enough old growth on the landscape to support species survival while sustainably logging what is available for harvest; our natural resources are not endless.
Locally, Canfor is actively logging old growth in the upper Blaeberry Valley where species-at-risk such as White bark Pine grow and Olive-sided Flycatcher nest. The loss of old growth forests at the scale that is planned in the Collie, Ensign and Wildcat basins (headwaters of the Blaeberry River) has the potential to effect many more species, as well as to increase the rate that storm water and spring snow melt enter the river. Impacts quickly spread from the area being logged, downstream to fish habitats and into communities.
Right now, the Provincial Government has an open online engagement regarding old growth and is accepting comment on the future of its management. This is an opportunity for you to express your concerns regarding current forest practices and the value of old growth, and to potentially change policy. High quality old growth forests need to be preserved to slow the current rate of global species diversity loss. Forest management needs to focus more on the renewal of previously logged forests to have a future of sustainable harvest and less on the short-sighted liquidation of irreplaceable old growth.
Feedback is open until January 31, 2020 at 4 p.m. Complete the old growth engagement questionnaire at https://engage.gov.bc.ca/oldgrowth/.
All photos by Rachel Darvill