Rachel Holt, a Nelson ecologist who has worked on forestry and old growth issues for decades, is the co-author of a paper that looks at loss of old growth forest in B.C. Photo: Bill Metcalfe

Rachel Holt, a Nelson ecologist who has worked on forestry and old growth issues for decades, is the co-author of a paper that looks at loss of old growth forest in B.C. Photo: Bill Metcalfe

Province ignoring need to preserve old growth forests, says Nelson scientist

Report says more resources are given to harvesting old growth than protecting it

A Nelson ecologist says the B.C. government is misleading the public when it states that 23 per cent, or 13.2 million hectares, of the province’s forest is old growth.

Rachel Holt, a consulting ecologist, says those numbers are technically correct but the province has lumped together several different kinds of old growth, and that 80 per cent of it consists of sites that can grow trees less than 15 metres tall at 50 years, and only three per cent consists of sites that can grow large trees over 20 metres tall that the public recognizes as old growth.

Holt is a registered professional biologist with decades of experience working with land management and old growth issues.

She and two other scientists — ecologist Karen Price and forester Dave Daust — published B.C.’s Old Growth: A Last Stand for Biodiversity (attached below) in April on their own, not on behalf of any organization or government.

“These [large old growth] ecosystems are effectively the white rhino of old growth forests,” the report states. “They are almost extinguished and will not recover from logging.”

Holt says they were concerned the public does not know this.

“And we are worried the people who make decisions don’t know it,” she told the Star. “We know the foresters who work in the province all know this.”

Holt says if the public thinks there are 13.2 million hectares of old growth forest with large trees, they will not worry.

“They will think there is an effective strategy in place to maintain this incredibly valuable resource, when in fact there is very, very little of the real old forest left and we do not have an effective policy in place to protect it.”

Why would the province want to minimize the problem by publishing what Holt says are simplistic statistics?

“Because it reduces the amount [of old growth] you have to keep,” she says, and keeping old growth conflicts with the province’s need to maintain or increase the annual allowable cut.

The report was originally a submission to the province’s old growth strategic review panel, commissioned last year to travel the province and get the public’s opinion on how to manage old growth. The panel has since written its report but the province does not plan to release it until late this summer.

The province’s response

Asked by the Star for a response to the report, the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development was not defensive. A spokesperson said in an email in part:

“This is a problem many years in the making and it won’t be solved immediately. That’s why we launched a review and engagement process by two independent experts [the province’s old growth strategic review panel] to provide recommendations.

“We agree that more work needs to be done with environmental organizations, First Nations, industry and other groups to resolve this.”

Holt says the province has known for more than two decades about the problems her report describes.

Recommendations

The report says biodiversity is at risk in B.C. and there are no solid policies to protect it. The authors make a number of detailed recommendations, which include:

• Immediately stop harvesting the largest and oldest trees.

• Develop and implement ecologically defensible targets for old forest.

• Improve implementation to ensure that old forest retention protects the last remaining productive old forests, and protects functional forests for the future.

The report details how the province has neither the policies nor the staffing to carry out these recommendations.

“Little human effort is tasked with protecting old forest values, while much is focused on harvesting.”

Old growth and biodiversity

One of the hallmarks of large old growth forest is complexity, the report states.

“The structural complexity creates myriad habitats that, given sufficient time, support diverse interacting communities of specialists and generalists — from a rich soil micro-fauna to unique canopy communities, from berry bushes to devil’s club, from marten to caribou.”

And that complexity has a purpose: “harnessing the sun’s energy through photosynthesis, storing carbon in large live and dead trees, collecting, filtering, cooling and transporting water, gathering nutrients from the atmosphere (e.g., via epiphytic lichens), providing nurse logs for the next generation of trees, and building soil.”

And that’s part of the larger picture of biodiversity.

The report describes how forest biodiversity and ecosystem function are interdependent, and argues the existence of significant amounts of old growth are essential to both.

B.C.’s Old Growth: A Last Stand for Biodiversity is attached below.



bill.metcalfe@nelsonstar.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

B.C.’s Old Growth: A Last Stand for Biodiversity by BillMetcalfe on Scribd

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

There are several options available for a ShelterBox donation. Submitted photo
Kimberley Rotary continues to partner with ShelterBox

A ShleterBox donation is a great gift

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Interior Health reports 65 new cases of COVID-19

Province-wide, there are 887 new cases of the virus

Peter Wilson, left, and Micah Rankin, right, formed the Special Prosecutor team that was tasked with reviewing and litigating charges stemming from the Bountiful investigation. Trevor Crawley photo.
End of Bountiful prosecution wraps up decades of legal battles

Constitutional questions had to be settled before a polygamy prosecution could move forward

College of the Rockies Avalanche volleyball coaches (l-r) Bryan Fraser and Cisco Farrero continue to help their players develop their skills, despite the cancellation of competitive play for the 2020 academic year. (Submitted file)
Winter 2021 Avalanche volleyball season cancelled

Pacwest has curtailed competitive play for the winter 2021 semester

RDEK reminds public to register for their emergency notification system. File photo.
RDEK reminds residents to register for East Kootenay Evacuation Notification System

Provincial Alert system cannot be used for local emergencies

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry update the COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, Nov. 23, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. sets another COVID-19 record with 887 new cases

Another 13 deaths, ties the highest three days ago

2020
Urban wildlife Part VI: The East Kootenay birds of autumn

The work of local photographers printed in the pages of the East Kootenay Advertiser throughout 2020. Part VI.

Alexandre Bissonnette, who pleaded guilty to a mass shooting at a Quebec City mosque, arrives at the courthouse in Quebec City on February 21, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mathieu Belanger - POOL
Court strikes down consecutive life sentences; mosque shooter has prison term cut

The decision was appealed by both the defence and the Crown

Gold medallists in the ice dance, free dance figure skating Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, of Canada, pose during their medals ceremony at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Charlie Riedel
Olympic champions Virtue, Moir and Tewksbury among 114 Order of Canada inductees

Moir and Virtue catapulted to national stardom with their gold-medal performances at the Winter Olympics in 2018

Shoppers line up in front of a shop on Montreal’s Saint-Catherine Street in search of Black Friday deals in Montreal, Friday, Nov. 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Black Friday shopping in a pandemic: COVID-19 closes some stores, sales move online

Eric Morris, head of retail at Google Canada, says e-commerce in Canada has doubled during the pandemic.

School District 27 announced the first confirmed case of COVID-19 this week (Nov. 23) at Lake City Secondary School Williams Lake campus. (Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Entire gym class at northern B.C. high school isolating after confirmed COVID case

Contact tracing by Interior Health led to the quarantine

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

After twice have their wedding plans altered due to COVID-19 restrictions, Suzanne Schmidt and Andrew Sturgess got married in Bakerview Park last weekend, with the only guests being their two daughters, Zoey (foreground) and Tessa. (Darren Ripka photo)
From New Zealand to Bakerview Park, B.C. couple weds in ‘backyard’

Twice scaled-down wedding ‘proof that good things still happen during bad times’

Arthur Topham has been sentenced to one month of house arrest and three years of probation after breaching the terms of his probation. Topham was convicted of promoting hate against Jewish people in 2015. (Photo submitted)
Quesnel man convicted for anti-Semitic website sentenced to house arrest for probation breach

Arthur Topham was convicted of breaching probation following his 2017 sentence for promoting hatred

Most Read