Ancient cedar-hemlock hangs above thickets of lush ferns and sprawling devil’s club. A plethora of rare lichens and mosses shade the rich soils below, the moist air is pungent with the smell of earth. Sunlight dapples through the hundreds-of-years-old canopy, painting a world of green and gold where species like deep snow Mountain Caribou, grizzly bears and wolverines thrive. This is Canada’s forgotten rainforest, the only one of its kind.
In this globally unique ecosystem, the wet and super wet cedar-hemlock forests are the prime jewel. These forests contain species that are new to science and harbour an amazing diversity of rare plants, animals, and fungi. This region is home to deep snow caribou which are a unique ecotype of mountain caribou, evolved to live in the deep snows and old growth forests of the Inland Temperate Rainforest. Historically the vast majority of these forests in this ecosystem were ancient old growth. Today the vast majority of these forests have been converted into young forests primarily through logging.
Interconnected, incredible, and irreplaceable.
The Inland Temperate Rainforest is under threat. Due to logging there is nearly 3 times more young forest in the Revelstoke-Shuswap than under historic natural disturbance regimes. At a provincial scale, only three percent of the productive low elevation old growth that grows large trees remains. The vast majority of these productive old growth forests are slated to be logged in the near future.
Critical for caribou
Thousands of hectares of globally unique forests are cut every year in the Inland Rainforest. Across the province, every 90 seconds enough old growth to span a hockey rink is lost. This drastic ecosystem change has put sensitive species like mountain caribou on the brink of extinction. The provincial population of deep snow dwelling mountain caribou is down to approximately 1200. The Revelstoke area is considered a stronghold with the Columbia-North subpopulation at 184 caribou (2021 provincial estimate). Environment Canada projects that 2000 hectares (3500 soccer fields worth) of caribou habitat is logged every year in the Revelstoke and Shuswap region. The vast majority of this logging is old growth.
Critical for climate
These Cedar Hemlock rainforests play a critical role in carbon storage and sequestration. One UNBC study from the Inland Temperate Rainforest in the Robson Valley found that total forest carbon storage in ITR forests was similar to Coastal rainforests, which are considered to be amongst the most carbon rich forests in the world. The study also found that, once clearcut, these forests lose nearly 4/5th of their carbon. Much of that carbon is stored in living trees but also large downed trees and the soils below – which are heavily disturbed or removed once logged. The Inland Temperate Rainforest is a potential carbon sanctuary, and in the age of a rapidly changing climate, deserves protection simply on that basis.
Keeping all the parts
Beyond carbon, the Inland Rainforest’s old growth is critical for water, for caribou, flying squirrels, bull-trout, lichens, birds, and us. The old growth forests of the Inland Temperate Rainforest are non-renewable because they have taken hundreds, if not thousands of years to develop, and these forests often produce their own unique micro climates. As the research of Dr. Suzanne Simard’s research shows, in these primary forests, there are complex partnerships happening among all of the forest parts: there’s competition, there’s negotiation, and there’s symbiotic relationship among trees, plants, and fungi which form partnerships to help share water and nutrients. You can remove some of the parts of a forest and it will survive, unfortunately, much of the logging and forestry we do in BC removes all of the parts.
Join our campaign to end old growth logging in the ITR. Speak up today – let the BC Government know it is vital that immediate action is taken to prevent imminent ecological collapse in the Inland Temperate Rainforest.