Right now, the province of BC is asking the public: how should we manage our old growth forests? With as little as 5% of our forests left as old growth, step one has to be to stop logging old growth forest—and that’s a message that the government needs to hear loud and clear from British Columbians.
But if you’re not convinced that BC should stop letting logging companies clearcut old growth forests, let’s talk about why old growth is so important and about some of the special old growth that we still have in our area: the Inland Temperate Rainforest.
Old growth forests are resilient. In the face of the current global climate and biodiversity crisis, that resiliency is far too precious to trade for short-term logging profits.
Old growth ecosystems are the most complex biological communities in our landscape, providing critical habitats for species at risk, from mountain caribou to grizzly bears, and beneficial ecosystem services like clean water, clean air, flood protection and carbon sequestration. We don’t need old growth just to protect species at risk, but to protect humans as well.
The Inland Temperate Rainforest
Here in the Kootenays and Columbias, we have our very own rainforest, a special wet forest with a slightly confusing name because the majority of the water falls as snow rather than rain. The Inland Temperate Rainforest (ITR) runs from near Prince George all the way south through the Kootenays and Columbias and into Montana and Idaho. In mountain valleys in the Columbias, Purcells and other mountain ranges, you’ll know you’re in the ITR when you see cedars and hemlock and start to feel the cool wetness created by a dense canopy and vegetation that holds onto water. This rainforest is nothing like the open forests that cover the valley bottoms in the Rocky Mountain Trench or the pine and fir forests that cover the drier slopes of our mountain ranges.
Recent research has shown that less than 5% of the moist cedar-hemlock forest in the Inland Temperate Rainforest is old growth, with trees older than 140 years. The remainder is 66% young and immature forest and 30% is clearcuts.1 It’s time to start valuing the preservation of what little old growth we have left in the ITR, instead of just letting it be cut for profit.
For mountain caribou, the Inland Temperate Rainforest is their home. Old growth rainforest is crucial for their survival, so it’s no surprise that our mountain caribou herds are struggling and even disappearing as we log what little remains.2 Beyond caribou, 375 different species of wildlife are known to inhabit the ITR, plus a vast abundance of different types of plants, insects and fungi. Caribou are our canary in the coal mine: if we let the last remaining old growth rainforest be logged, many more species will decline quickly and even disappear.
Speak up for Old Growth
The BC government currently has an open public consultation on the management of old growth forests until January 31st.
Let the government know that you want to see our old growth forests—all of them—protected instead of logged.
Key points to consider:
- We don’t have much old growth left in BC, so it’s time to stop pretending we’re “balancing” economic or other interests while we cut down what little old growth we have left.
- Logging is by far the biggest threat to our old growth; industrial activity and fire are important factors as well.
- The best way to stop the loss of our old growth is simply to protect it from logging and industrial activity entirely. Designated protections for specific areas of old growth are the strongest way to make sure it doesn’t end up logged, while legally-binding land use plans, provincial parks, and changes to forest practices can also help.
- The BC Government needs to hear loud and clear that British Columbians don’t want to see any more of our old growth logged.
Please take a minute now to fill out the government’s survey to help put a stop to the destruction of our old growth forests.
You can read Wildsight’s full submission to the BC Government on old growth forests here.
- Coxson, D., Goward, T., & Werner, J. R. (2019). The Inland Temperate Rainforest and Interior Wetbelt Biomes of Western North America. In Reference Module in Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences. Elsevier. https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-12-409548-9.12055-X
- Serrouya, R., McLellan, B. N., Apps, C. D., & Wittmer, H. U. (2008). A synthesis of scale-dependent ecology of the endangered mountain caribou in British Columbia, Canada. Rangifer, 28(1), 33. https://doi.org/10.7557/220.127.116.11