Bigmouth logging (June 13, 2021). Photo credit: Eddie Petryshen

Bigmouth logging (June 13, 2021). Photo credit: Eddie Petryshen

BC must defer more old growth logging in Inland Temperate Rainforest, Wildsight says

Conservation group applauds formation of advisory panel, expects more deferral announcements

While much attention is being paid to protests of logging old growth forests in Fairy Creek on Vancouver Island, environmental group Wildsight is pointing to another area of old growth that is also facing logging.

Wildsight Conservation Specialist Eddie Petryshen of the Wildsight Kimberley Cranbrook branch, says that the Inland Temperate Rainforest is also about to be logged, and very little attention is being paid to it.

The Inland Temperate Rainforest (ITR) covers 40 million acres, and stretches 700 miles in a broad arc from central Idaho to Prince George, British Columbia, encompassing a globally unique, rich and diverse landscape. There are no other inland temperate zones on earth that harbour so many species, including mountain caribou, more closely associated with coastal forests, Wildsight says.

Petryshen says unique stands of cedar-hemlock trees are in danger.

“The trees, which are hundreds and hundreds of years old and many one to two metres in diameter, are being auctioned off and logged by BC’s own provincial timber agency, BC Timber Sales (BCTS,” Petryshen said. “150 soccer fields (126 hectares) of low elevation old growth is currently being logged by Downey Timber under contract by BCTS in Bigmouth Creek, 120 kilometres northeast of Revelstoke.

“The Inland Temperate Rainforest is the last ecosystem left of its kind. The ITR is one of the most important places in British Columbia for at-risk species like caribou and wolverine. These biologically rich ancient forests provide fresh water and store far more carbon than the plantations replacing them.

“Right now across BC the policy is talk and log. High lumber prices are fuelling an increased demand for wood and rare large cedar old growth forests.

“We need action — as we speak we are losing some of the best old growth we have left. The 126 hectares of BCTS old growth logging in Bigmouth Creek is a prime example of that.”

BC Timber Sales (BCTS) manages about 20 per cent of the province’s allowable annual cut for Crown timber which BCTS auctions to loggers, wood processors and other forestry businesses.

“If this government is serious about honouring their commitments towards protecting caribou habitat and old growth, the province must immediately defer BCTS logging in endangered old growth and caribou habitat in the Inland Temperate Rainforest,” said Petryshen.

He says BCTS also appears poised to log another 31 hectares of old growth near Argonaut Creek, another valley north of Revelstoke.

In December, the province deferred logging in 11 of 14 of the cutblocks in Argonaut until the mountain caribou herd planning process is complete. The remaining three old growth blocks in Argonaut have not been auctioned yet, nor approved by the provincial government. One block just to the West of Argonaut in Bigmouth has already been approved and sold, and is likely to be logged soon. These four blocks could be deferred by the provincial government in order to protect remaining old growth forests and their importance for caribou.

On Thursday, June 24, the government announced a panel of experts, including Kimberley’s Gary Merkel, a professional forester from the Tahltan Nation in Northwest B.C. who co-authored the province’s old growth strategy review in September 2020, would form a technical advisory committee.

Petryshen welcomed the move saying he hoped it would lead to immediate deferrals in the Inland Temperate Rainforest as well.

”We applaud the appointment of independent scientists to guide the implementation of the provincial old growth report that outlined the need for a paradigm shift in forestry and the immediate protection of at-risk old growth,” he said.

“Old growth deferrals will create space for the more complex but very necessary shift in how we manage our forests in BC to prioritize ecosystem health instead of timber harvesting.

“Premier Horgan referenced the importance of interior old growth in his recent Fairy Creek deferrals — home to the world’s only inland temperate rainforest. BC’s interior old growth needs immediate protection and we look forward to future deferral announcements.”

READ: B.C. approves deferral of old-growth logging at Fairy Creek, Walbran valleys

READ: B.C. suspends some old-growth logging, consults communities

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