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The future of old growth forests in B.C.

Old Growth Strategic Review – process and engagement

On July 17, 2019, the Government of British Columbia announced the appointment of an independent, two-person panel as part of an Old Growth Strategic Review. The panel was created to undertake public engagement on old growth and provide a report to the Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development.

Garry Merkel, professional forester, natural resource expert and member of the Tahltan Nation, and Al Gorley, professional forester and former chair of the Forest Practices Board, engaged the public to hear people’s perspectives on the ecological, economic, social and cultural importance of old-growth trees and forests.

The engagement process resulted in one of the highest ever EngageBC responses, with:

  • 200 meetings in 45 communities; and
  • 300 written submissions, 400 published articles and papers, 9,000 emails and 18,500 completed surveys.

On April 30, 2020, the panel submitted 14 recommendations to the Province in a report, A New Future for Old Forests. Download the report at: https://engage.gov.bc.ca/oldgrowth

Old-growth areas for immediate development deferral

Government has begun preliminary analysis of the report. It has identified nine areas of the province totalling 352,739 hectares where old forest harvesting will be immediately deferred as a first step. Future work will be undertaken to consult with Indigenous Nations.

For a link to a map of old-growth areas for immediate development deferral, visit: https://news.gov.bc.ca/files/Old_Growth_No1.pdf

List of old-growth areas for immediate development deferral:

  1. Clayoquot Sound: 260,578 hectares. Renowned for its beauty and range of resource values, typical forests of the very wet Coastal Western Hemlock zone, with western hemlock, western red cedar, yellow cedar, balsam, berries, ferns and moss.
  2. Crystalline Creek: 9,595 hectares. A tributary of the south fork of the Spillimacheen River, an intact watershed with wetland complexes and old and mature forests.
  3. H’Kusam: 1,050 hectares. Prounounced kew-sum, this easily accessible area contains outstanding examples of culturally modified trees and intact stands of old-growth cedar.
  4. Incomappleux Valley: 40,194 hectares. Inland rainforest with intact riparian habitats, more than 250 lichen species, lowland forests and old-growth forests estimated to be between 800 and 1,500 years old.
  5. McKelvie Creek: 2,231 hectares. Intact valley of old-growth temperate rainforest and intact watershed providing rich wildlife and salmon habitat.
  6. Seven Sisters: 4,510 hectares. A complete elevation sequence of forested ecosystems, with a blend of coastal, interior and northern features, habitat for many red- and blue-listed wildlife species.
  7. Skagit-Silver Daisy: 5,745 hectares. Largely intact transition forest between coastal and interior types, with species representative of both, including sub-alpine fir, western and mountain hemlock, western red and yellow cedar and Douglas fir, home to wildlife including spotted owls.
  8. Stockdale Creek: 11,515 hectares. Old and mature forests in an intact watershed, an important wildlife corridor with high-value grizzly bear habitat.
  9. Upper Southgate River: 17,321 hectares. Coastal rainforest providing a rich habitat for wildlife and multiple species of salmon.

Facts about old growth in B.C.

  • Old-growth forests provide important and unique ecological, economic, social and cultural benefits to British Columbians.
  • Old-growth forests are generally defined as trees more than 250 years old on the coast and more than 140 years old in the Interior.
  • About 57 million hectares (60%) of B.C.’s 95 million hectares of land is forested.
  • About 13.7 million hectares or 23% of forest lands are old forests.
  • Nearly 10 million hectares of old forest are already under some form of protection or are not considered available for harvesting. In addition, many more areas of old growth are conserved through stewardship initiatives such as Together for Wildlife, caribou conservation, marbled murrelet and northern goshawk recovery plans and Modernized Land Use Planning.
  • About 3.75 million hectares of old forest lands are available for harvesting.