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Ancient Forests

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Preserving the Ancient Forests

I live in British Columbia Canada, home to the only inland temperate rain forest, home to the last forests of 2000 year old Douglas fir and cedar trees. I live on Vancouver Island, where only 11% of these forests are left and at the present rate will be completely gone in 15 years, lost to clear cut logging.

The irony is American forestry companies such as Weyerhaeuser are clear cutting these priceless trees and selling them as raw logs. The trees are on crown land and belong to the people of BC. Weyerhaeuser pays only $0.25 CAD a cubic metre. (Spruce weighs about 450 kg (992.08 lbs) per cubic metre, so this works out to about 1/40 of a Canadian penny per pound) This brings almost no economic benefit to BC since there is no value-added processing on the wood. To add insult to injury Weyerhaeuser refuses to sell raw wood to Canadian value-added manufacturers.

The whole industry of destroying the forests will be over in 15 years, but still these bastards want to destroy every last hectare of primeval forest and with it all the species that depend on them such a grizzlies, mountain caribou, marmots, murelets, eagles and salmon — all the species tourists come from all over the earth to see.

The irony is tourism from the remaining forests is already bringing in far more money to the province than the sale of raw logs, but Weyerhaeuser has hypnotised (bribed actually) the corrupt provincial government into doing whatever they ask for.

Weyerhaeuser flacks have convinced the loggers of BC that the environmentalists are their enemies for trying to preserve at the least the core seed areas necessary to eventually restore the forests. All Weyerhaeuser does is grow tree farms of genetically identical trees with no diversity hence susceptible to pests and even slight variations in climate. Old growth forests support thousands of species. They have openings for the light to get through. Tree farms trees are all identical height and are so densely packed no light reaches the forest floor and support relatively little animal life. Weyerhaeuser has destroyed jobs by mechanisation, mill closures and blocking all value-added processing, cleverly blaming all the economic hardship they create on the environmentalists.

These ancient forests are far more valuable just left alone than as wood for toothpicks. They support the complex ecosystem of British Columbia. You might call them, along with the tropical rainforests, the lungs of our planet, cleansing the air of CO₂ and refreshing the oxygen.

As the habitat is destroyed, inevitably the species that depend on it die with it. For example, the mountain caribou winters in the ancient forests living off the tree lichens as do deer. As the old forests disappear the animals congregate in the remaining pockets where they are easily slaughtered by predators. Brown bears winter over in the hollows of the ancient cedars. As the cedars disappear, so do the bears.

There have been 6 massive extinctions in our planet’s history. The last big one was 60 million years ago that ended the reign of the dinosaurs. We are in the midst of an even more rapid and bigger extinction event right now, caused by human activity. There are 160 to 270 species extinctions a day. 86% of this is caused by habitat loss. You can’t preserve species without preserving their habitat.

Logging has destroyed almost all the ancient forests, yet these loons won’t stop until it all completely gone. They won’t even leave enough to reseed the earth with biodiversity if at some point in future when we recognise planet earth needs its lungs after all, no matter what the economic inconvenience.

Biologist E.O. Wilson has discovered that it is not enough to preserve pockets of habitat. If you want to maintain biodiversity and if you want the top level predators to survive, these pockets must be connected by corridors. You need large contiguous hunks of habitat if you want any hope of preservation.

Why is this? Imagine the extreme opposite to large contigous preservation blocks, one ancient tree per 10 blocks in an urban setting preserved. If the squirrels in one tree were killed, that would be the end of squirrels in that tree. It would be almost impossible for them to be colonised from squirrels in another tree. Further, the squirrels in one tree would be come inbred like hillbillies, force to mate with relatives, leading to genetically degenerate offspring and eventual extirpation.

We have parks, but typically these protect only regions of little economic interest, such as alpine meadows and bogs. We need to protect at least the remaining stands of trees over 1000 years old, along with corridors between them for genetic transfer and animal migration. The irony is economics and job loss are the only arguments used to justify the destruction of the ancient forests even though the province-wide economics and tourism-related job creation favour preserving them.

The BC Liberals have tremendous chutzpah. The forest lands are public lands. They belong to the people of BC. The people of BC have made it clear they want these forests to be sustainably managed, yet the Liberals have effectively handed over the forests solely for the short-term economic benefit of a few foreign companies. The liberals have shut out both BC business and even the BC government from any benefit and are cheering on the destruction of the last of the ancient forests. This is ecological vandalism and corruption on a massive scale.

Greenpeace
Western Canada Wilderness Committee

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