The current state of old-growth forests on Vancouver Island is now being classified by some as an ecological emergency. Putting this in context, over 90 per cent of the biggest and most productive low-elevation old-growth forests on Vancouver Island have now been logged. Of the remaining 9-10 per cent roughly three per cent is protected in parks or Old Growth Management Areas. The rest of it is up for grabs by logging companies.
There are a number of reasons why we should care deeply about this issue, and take steps to protect our old growth forests. First, they provide habitat for many species and, importantly, they are a crucial habitat to a number of species at risk including the marbled murrelet and northern goshawk. Second, these forests are substantial carbon sinks and actually take in more carbon than young forests do. Finally, as anyone who has visited Cathedral Grove can attest, they can play a strong role in local eco-tourism efforts.
Unfortunately, productive old-growth forests are also the most profitable to cut down. While the province has a process in place for old-growth management, the problem is that the approach does not distinguish between high and low-productivity forests. This means that they end up protecting small mountaintop trees and let logging happen in the valley bottoms.
Recently there has been a substantial outcry against the proposed logging that could occur in the Walbran Valley. This is the only contiguous prime ancient forest in southern Vancouver Island large enough to provide habitat for certain species at risk. It is exactly the type of forest we need to be protecting.
While the Walbran is a well-known area, there are a number of old growth forests on Vancouver Island that are at risk including: Nootka Island, East Creek, Edinburgh Grove, Tsitika Valley, Nahmint Valley, Southwest Nimpkish, Echo Valley, Maclaughlin Ridge, Horne Mountain and the Cameron Valley Fire Break.
The reality is that most people and local governments on Vancouver Island support increased protection of our remaining old growth forests. City councils, chambers of commerce and the Association of Vancouver Island Coastal Communities have all called for a limit or for increased protections to old-growth logging on Vancouver Island, yet we have not seen anything concrete from our provincial government.
I have written to the minister on this subject and have proposed some solutions, including that the government designate more old-growth forests as off-limits to logging.
In order to see movement on this issue, we need to have open and inclusive conversation with everyone involved. I will continue to raise the issue at every opportunity and I am ever hopeful that we can start down the path of more sustainable development in our forestry industry on Vancouver Island.
If you want more information on what I’ve been doing as your MLA you can go to my website at www.andrewweavermla.ca or you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Andrew Weaver is the MLA for Oak Bay Gordon Head.