This letter is in response to the ‘Old Growth Update Letter’ from Stella Jones Inc., Downie Timber Ltd., Pacific Woodtech and the Revelstoke Community Forest Corporation printed in the Dec. 15 edition of the Revelstoke Review.
We must remember what else is at stake when we talk about logging in the Inland Temperate Rainforest in which we live.
This ecosystem is the last functioning Inland Temperate Rainforest (ITR) of any significant size on the planet.
It contains rare and endangered plant and animal species, some of which are not yet known to science.
The mountain caribou is one of these endangered species and the Columbia North Herd north of Revelstoke is the most southern viable herd remaining.
It is mostly primary forests which are being logged here, and many primary forests in the ITR have not been disturbed by humans since the last ice age.
They give us ecosystem services such as clean water, clean air, preventing flooding and landslides, and resistance and resilience to wildfire.
Of importance at a global level is the fact the ITR is a huge carbon sink and is a vital defense against climate change and the biodiversity crisis.
Some say when the primary forests are logged, they are replanted, and thus any loss of carbon sequestration is mitigated. This is simply not true.
Actually, when a forest is clear-cut, a majority of carbon sequestration is lost from the harvesting of old trees which sequester more carbon than young trees, and from the forest floor and soil.
When a clear-cut becomes a tree farm, it will be logged in about 60 to 80 years.
These trees are young, not even mature, let alone old (a tree must be 250 years old before it is considered old in the ITR).
In other words primary, so old forests will be gone forever if logged.
These last remnants of old growth forests are not a renewable resource.
Recent peer reviewed research (Dellasala et al in the journal Land, 2021) found the Inland Temperate Rainforest ecosystem is in danger of collapse in the next eight to 17 years if logging continues as usual. Thus, the ITR itself is critically endangered.
Mountain caribou in the Revelstoke area have 40 per cent of their critical habitat protected.
Other mountain caribou planning units have about 90 per cent protected.
Mountain caribou need old primary forests for food and protection from predators. If the primary forests outside their protected area are logged, they will not have enough critical habitat to survive.
No matter how much predator prey removal is carried out, 40 per cent of critical habitat is not enough to provide food. They will ultimately starve.
Then the 40 per cent of caribou critical habitat protected will be logged.
Furthermore, protected areas are often higher elevation habitat, which while valuable, are not the habitat that is most under threat.
Lower elevation habitat is what continues to be logged at an ever increasing rate and what we are asking to be protected.
This adds up to two extinctions: the Inland Temperate Rainforest (a planetary extinction) and the deep snow mountain caribou of the Columbia North Herd (local extinction) if logging continues as usual.
Local timber licensees have said they only want to log old growth (primary forest) here for the next 18 to 20 years.
Since there is so little old growth forest left in the ITR (somewhere between five and 12 per cent, Darwyn Coxson, 2019) this would effectively finish it off.
It must be stated the original government plan for all of B.C. was to log the entire timber harvesting land base.
We understand that there is still discussion of logging in deferral areas including in BC Timber Sales sold prior to the deferral announcement.
Deferral areas are essential while the recommendations of the Old Growth Strategic Review Panel (OGSRP) are implemented or there will be nothing left to protect.
The OGSRP recommended forestry be based primarily on ecological values rather than resource/commodity values.
The provincial government has committed to assisting communities involved in the logging industry to transition to a more ecological, sustainable industry.
We support this just transition which will be done in partnership with Indigenous peoples.
But it must happen now, with no more logging of primary forest.
Logging companies can stand beside environmental, First Nations, scientific, and community interests to demand a way forward where all interests are protected and heard.
Indeed, it is the only way forward.