This article was written by guest contributor, Chelsea Murphy
Old growth forests are one of British Columbia’s most defining natural features. These ancient trees have stood for as long as 800 years and are recognizable as a massive tree erupting from the earth stretching 60 meters or more into the sky. A thick bark protects the tree, and a family of four people would struggle to hold hands and encircle one.
B.C forests used to be rich with these beautiful trees but as the demand for lumber grew, these trees became more and more rare. Conservationists and loggers both say it is very significant when old growth trees are discovered in one of B.C.’s forests. The over-logging of old growth trees is now causing them to face extinction. According to a March 2021 article in the CBC, writer Chad Pawson said, each year over 200,000 hectares of B.C.’s forests are logged and 27% of that is old growth. Old growth trees take hundreds of years to grow and need certain growing environments; environments which only cover 3% of B.C.. Old growth trees have a very high economic value as they are used for a variety of items, such as instruments and high-end furniture; the trees are being cut down at an unsustainable rate just for their economic value.
Forests with old growth trees, such as Yellow Cedars, Sitka Spruce or Douglas Firs, are rich in biodiversity. They support many other animal and plant species, including some which cannot live in any other type of habitat. These forests have dense canopies, thick tough bark and large roots which help prevent the spread of forest fires, landslides, and flooding. Even old growth trees that die and fall to the ground and rot help the remaining forest around it by providing nutrients and habitat for other species. The majority of old growth trees that grow in easily accessible areas have been logged and now logging companies are risking the lives of their employees to log trees in dangerous areas such as cliffs and steep declines, potentially causing a landslide.
The over-logging of old growth trees in B.C. has gained national attention in recent years, inspiring young people to protest. An article written in CBC news of May 2021 highlights the protest at Fairy Creek, which resulted in 133 arrests when protestors secured themselves to the ground, blocking a logging road in a demonstration against old growth logging on Vancouver Island. This protest was just one of the peaceful acts needed to gain the attention of the public and Canadian government to protect these ancient forests.
The B.C. government along with local Indigenous groups has deferred the harvesting of 2.6 million hectares of the most at-risk old growth trees in the province. These deferrals are only temporary and were made in 2020. No further action has been taken by the B.C. government to protect the old growth trees. When the deferral period ends, the at-risk forests will either be added to B.C.’s 3.5 million hectares of old-growth forests already off-limits to harvesting or included within new forest management plans as highlighted in an article written by Lindsay Byers in BC Gov News.
This extremely unsustainable logging of old growth trees is destroying delicate ecosystems and causing floods and landslides. Different groups such as the Ancient Forest Alliance and the Sierra Club are speaking up against old growth logging in attempt to lobby the Canadian government to work with logging companies and Indigenous groups to build a sustainable second growth logging industry. By transforming the logging industry, B.C. can take steps to save these tremendously important ancient forests!
Feature photo courtesy of Ancient Forest Alliance