Andrea Inness, Forest Campaigner with the Ancient Forest Alliance, stands next to an old-growth western red cedar in what was a proposed cutblock near Port Renfrew. The tree measures nearly 11 feet in diameter and is estimated to be more than 500 years old.

Clearcutting B.C.’s last old-growth is leaving all of us poorer, forever

Earlier this month, hundreds of British Columbians visited MLA offices across the province demanding protection of endangered old-growth forests and improved forest management, during a day of action organized by Sierra Club BC.

In response, David Elstone, the executive director of the Truck Loggers Association, accused our organization of not acknowledging the economic importance of old-growth logging and claimed that clearcutting what little remains is sustainable (B.C. has most sustainably-managed forests in the world, June 6).

He was joined by columnist Tom Fletcher repeating outdated claims about the climate benefit of replacing old-growth forests with young trees. Fletcher ignores modern science showing that clearcutting ancient trees results in the rapid loss of huge amounts of carbon accumulated over hundreds of years (Urban environmental “emergency” routine wearing thin, June 9).

Sierra Club BC is concerned about the economic, social and ecological impact of clearcutting endangered old-growth forests. True sustainability is leaving similar values and conditions for future generations. But B.C.’s ancient giants have been reduced to a fraction of their former extent, replaced by young, uniform forests cut in short rotation forestry, never allowed to grow old again.

Elstone claims B.C.’s forest management is the most sustainable in the world. However, satellite images show that on Vancouver Island, we are losing what little forest remains intact three times faster than Brazil’s primary rainforest in the Amazon is being destroyed.

Massive amounts of carbon have been added to the atmosphere as a result and only a tiny fraction remains stored in wood products. One study estimates the loss of carbon when comparing old-growth forest to a 60-year old stand at more than 300 tonnes of carbon per hectare (more than 1,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide).

The current old-growth logging rate on Vancouver Island alone is about 10,000 hectares a year or more than 30 soccer fields a day. The inescapable conclusion is that old-growth logging on Vancouver Island alone contributes millions of tonnes annually to provincial carbon dioxide emissions.

Elstone highlights that in recent years close to half of the volume cut on Vancouver Island came from old-growth. Today the Island’s productive old-growth (forests with relatively big trees, not bonsai sized trees that government and industry likes to include to inflate numbers) has been reduced to about 20 percent of its former extent. Only six percent of the original productive old-growth of the Island is protected.

Elstone is in denial about old-growth logging coming to an end, one way or the other. This should be a huge concern for everyone with a job in the woods.

We will not leave anything close to what we found for future generations. Plants and animal species that depend on old-growth will vanish. Climate impacts will worsen without the shield of intact ancient forests to reduce droughts, floods and fires. Degraded landscapes will impact the quality of drinking water and allow fewer options for a diverse economy that includes tourism and recreation.

Elstone claims 55 per cent of remaining old-growth forests on Vancouver Island is protected. This is highly misleading. As the total amount of old growth trees declines due to logging, of course the percentage that is protected goes up. B.C. could destroy 99 per cent of all old-growth, set aside 1 percent and report 100% protected. Is this the approach to conservation British Columbians want?

His sustainability argument is particularly troubling considering B.C.’s old-growth forests were looked after by Indigenous peoples for millennia. Indigenous communities made use of forests in hundreds of different ways without destroying their ecological integrity. Instead, B.C. is exporting about 3 million cubic meters of old-growth per year as raw logs, accepting massive environmental losses for minimal economic benefits.

The good news is it is not too late to save what remains of B.C.’s old-growth, restore second-growth forests and transition to truly sustainable forest management. We can still chose to save the web of life that depends on intact forests and move to carefully planned selective logging. This would deliver “negative emissions” and wood products at the same time, capturing more carbon in our forests than is lost as a result of harvesting.

Creating more jobs with less ecosystem damage per cubic metre of wood deserves our full support. The longer we wait the harder this change will be. The first step is for industry and government to stop the denial reflected in Elstone and Fletcher’s opinion pieces.

Jens Wieting

Senior Forest and Climate Campaigner

Sierra Club BC

Just Posted

Lonesome Ace Stringband a three-man powerhouse

Highway 19 Concert Series brings bluegrass to Campbell River

Petition calls for clinical pathology testing to return to Campbell River Hospital

North Island MLA Claire Trevena presented to the B.C. Legislature on Wednesday… Continue reading

How does Campbell River rank on Maclean’s ‘Canada’s Most Dangerous Places 2020’ list

The city’s crime rates have improved, but homicide rate is second highest on the Island

First Nations all but shut out of involvement in barge grounding off Quadra Island

Nana Provider ran aground and lingered for a week while response plan developed

Suspects carry out 500-lb fireplace in latest commercial smash and grab

Third break-in at Campbell River business in less than a week: RCMP

VIDEO: UBC exchange students offered $1,000 to help with leaving Hong Kong

The university said 31 of its students were attending four universities in Hong Kong

Woman calls 911 to say she was late for train, asks Ontario police for ‘emergency ride’

Peel Regional Police received more than 180,000 improper calls so far this year

It could take you 218 years to save up for a house in this B.C. city

It would take 27 years in the most affordable city in the Lower Mainland

Victim of downtown Courtenay assault dies from injuries

Person of interest identified by RCMP

‘Actors can play any roles’: Debate over ‘colour-blind’ casting after Victoria lawsuit

Tenyjah Indra McKenna filed a complaint over racially-motivated casting

Infants more vulnerable to measles than previously thought: Canadian study

Babies typically don’t receive the measles vaccine until they are 12 months old

Shatner, Obomsawin among 39 inductees to Order of Canada today

Shatner is being given one of Canada’s highest civilian honours for his 60-year career

John Mann, singer and songwriter of group Spirit of the West dead at 57

Mann died peacefully in Vancouver on Wednesday from early onset Alzheimer’s

Teacher tells B.C. Supreme Court that student was ‘happy’ to watch smudging ceremony in classroom

Case being heard in Nanaimo over indigenous cultural practice in Port Alberni classroom

Most Read