Old growth in the Columbia Valley, in the Kinbasket area. (Photo submitted)

Wildsight: Old-growth forests are being logged in Golden

Wildsight says that Canfor has been logging old growth at the Blaeberry headwaters

The battle to defend old-growth forests in B.C. stretches across the province, from Fairy Creek on Vancouver Island to the Blaeberry headwaters in Golden.

Locally, old-growth at the Blaeberry headwaters are being logged by Canfor, according to conservation advocacy group Wildsight.

Old-growth forests in the Golden area include stands of Douglas Fir, White and Engelmann Spruce, Whitebark Pine, Cedar and Hemlock trees between 250 and 800 years old.

Conservation of old-growth is just as important to the Golden area as on Vancouver Island, says Wildsight.

“Remaining low and mid-elevation old-growth forests are extremely rare in the world and we are fortunate to have a few of the last remnants here,” read a statement from Wildsight.

“Intact old-growth forests are a key component of sustainable forest management.

“They have developed over thousands of years without major disturbances such as forest fire.”

The conservation activist group believes the provincial government is moving too slowly in implementing more sustainable forest practices..

Wildsight says new practices are needed, as forestry operators in the Blaeberry are currently following government guidelines and regulations, which still contribute to rapid old growth deforestation.

Wildsight Golden wants the provincial government to make a move towards more sustainable forestry practices across B.C., to protect these vital ecosystems and habitats.

According to Wildsight, we are still learning about the complex relationships between everything living in these forests.

Old-growth forests are vital for the survival of many different species in the area and the logging of these old-growth forests can lead to the destruction of habitat and wildlife endangerment, Wildsight contends.

READ MORE: Squamish NAtion calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

For example, the mountain caribou, an old-growth-dependent species, were common in the Columbia Valley less than a century ago. Now, these caribou have all but disappeared locally, with only a few isolated groups occasionally seen in places like Kinbasket Valley.

“It is not just old trees that we can’t replace, it is the ecosystems they are part of that we can’t regrow,” said Denise English, a local professional forester who volunteers for Wildsight.

English said part of the problem is many shareholders and stakeholders in the logging industry don’t live in the communities impacted by current logging practices, and in some cases not even in Canada.

In Golden, English explained the company that auctions off over 25 per cent of Golden timber supply is operated in Vernon.

“We are stuck in a paradigm where those outside our communities use jobs and revenue to build provincial infrastructure,” she said

“As a forester, my question to everyone including my colleagues is is it ethical to steal old-growth forests from future generations? We can’t create old ecosystems, and preserving and cataloguing big trees, while a gesture in the right direction, isn’t managing old growth.”

It’s a sentiment that even the premier echoed when he spoke on the pause of logging at Fairy Creek.

“These are monumental steps,” Horgan said. “This is not your grandparents’ forest industry. It will be your grandchildren’s forestry if we manage it correctly.”

Wildsight Golden supports restructuring B.C.’s old-growth management by making the Forest and Range Practice Act (FRPA) reflect the true value of old-growth forest ecosystem services.

Other recommendations include having Old Growth Management Areas (OGMA) represent all forest types, preserving substantial OGMA area, not just a single or small group of trees and in the long term; and a return of government oversight ensure the effectiveness of OGMA preservation, as the current professional reliance model under FRPA is not working.

Fairy Creek watershed