Press Room

223 international scientists call for urgent action to protect British Columbia’s endangered temperate rainforests

For Immediate Release June 28, 2018

Contacts: Dr. Dominick A. DellaSala, President, Chief Scientist, Geos Institute,  Ashland, Oregon, Cell 541-621-7223 | Dr. Barbara Zimmerman, Director, International Conservation Fund Canada, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. | Dr. Andy MacKinnon, BC Forest Ecologist, Cell 250-889-6453

Ashland, OR —The Government of British Columbia must take urgent and immediate action to protect the globally unique ecological values of BC’s remaining primary and intact coastal and inland temperate rainforest, say 223 prominent scientists from around the world in a letter released today.

The scientists specifically call for action to protect temperate rainforests along BC’s south coast and Vancouver Island, and inland rainforests on the windward side of the Columbia and Rocky Mountains, all of which remain at risk with insufficient conservation.

The letter was organized by Dr. Dominick DellaSala, chief scientist at the Geos Institute in Ashland, Oregon and author of Temperate and Boreal Rainforests of the World: Ecology and Conservation (Island Press). According to DellaSala, “BC’s temperate rainforests are globally rare, they offer habitat for many imperiled species and globally the vast majority of these unique rainforests has already been logged. Protection of remaining intact tracts of these carbon-rich, climate saving forests is a global responsibility and can help Canada to contribute to the 2020 UN biodiversity targets and the Paris Climate Agreement.” Recently, the ninth largest Douglas-fir in Canada was cut down in the Nahmint Valley near Port Alberni. The tree, which was 66 metres tall and three metres in diameter, was in an old-growth cut block auctioned off by the BC government. 

Temperate rainforests are rare, constituting just 2.5 per cent of the earth’s forests. British Columbia is home to one quarter of that total and BC’s inland rainforests are one of only two such areas worldwide.

“It is hard to overstate the cultural significance of these rainforests to the Indigenous peoples who have inhabited this part of the world for millennia,” said Dr. Barbara Zimmerman, Director of the International Conservation Fund Canada. “Their loss would be an enormous blow to all Canadians and all people of the world. Destruction of the last remnants of ancient old-growth forest with their magnificent trees and complex web of life is a rapidly unfolding tragedy and the vast majority of Canadians are unaware that it is even happening.”

According to recent estimates by Sierra Club BC, logging of old-growth temperate rainforest is currently destroying 10,000 hectares per year on Vancouver Island—the equivalent of two soccer fields per hour, 24 hours per day. Productive old-growth rainforests in lower elevations have been reduced to less than 10 per cent of their original extent. Plants and animals that depend on these rainforests are not just losing habitat, but also are suffering climate change impacts such as extended droughts, extreme rainfall and severe storms, threatening to push ecosystems to limits. Similar losses are occurring in the inland rainforest region where logging of old-growth rainforest has been extensive and is contributing to the demise of mountain caribou.

“BC has inspired the world with conservation solutions in Haida Gwaii and the Great Bear Rainforest. The province should take similar action to safeguard what remains of these globally outstanding ancient forests in other parts of the province,” said BC forest ecologist Andy MacKinnon. “The provincial government should follow through on its promise and take action for old-growth conservation using the same model and its multiple benefits for biodiversity, communities and the climate.”

Forests absorb atmospheric carbon through the process of photosynthesis and store it in long-lived plants and soils. In doing so, they help to cool down the planet. Cutting down forests releases most of their stored carbon as a global warming pollutant.

The experts are urging the provincial government to follow through on the promise to use the ecosystem-based management approach implemented in the Great Bear Rainforest to safeguard British Columbia’s endangered old-growth rainforest.

The signatories to the letter live and work in many countries, including Argentina, Australia, Canada, Indonesia, Mexico, Mongolia, Norway, the United States and Scotland.

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The letter is available online at: forestlegacies.org/featured-projects/temperate-rainforests

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