Hundreds of international scientists call for urgent action to protect B.C’s rainforests

SFU student explains why the logging of these forests can be disastrous

By: Srijani Datta, Assistant News Editor
Originally published July 18, 2018 at The Peak 

On June 28, 223 international scientists called on the British Columbia government to stop the incessant logging of temperate rainforests in the province. The scientists addressed their concerns in a letter titled “International Scientists’ Call for Action to Protect Endangered Temperate Rainforests of British Columbia, Canada.”

The letter was organized by Dr. Dominick DellaSala, chief scientist at the Geos Institute in Ashland, Oregon. In a press release announcing the release of the letter, DellaSala highlighted the significance of BC’s forests and discussed how rare they are.

DellaSala stated, “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 [sic] been logged.” He further explained that B.C’s coastal rainforests and rainforests further inland are unlike anywhere else on Earth and play a significant part in the protection of biodiversity and resisting climate change.

DellaSala said, “Conservation 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.”

BC forest ecologist and adjunct professor in SFU’s environmental and resource management department Andy MacKinnon remarked on conservation solutions in Haida Gwaii and the Great Bear Rainforest stating that “the province should take similar action to safeguard what remains of these globally outstanding ancient forests in other parts of the province.”

The Peak contacted Julie Nielsen, forest ecologist and PhD candidate at SFU, for her comments on the issue. Nielsen is currently researching in collaboration with six First Nations whose traditional territories cover eastern portions of Vancouver Island and the adjacent islands and mainland of the Great Bear Rainforest.

“This Call for Action is a catalyst for the Province — a ‘wake-up call’ to show BC that industrial logging continuing as ‘business-as-usual’, is a grave concern of not just ENGOs and the citizens of BC who support the protection of endangered ecosystems, but of several international scientists and experts,” wrote Nielsen.

She added, “I applaud Dominick DellaSala and the scientists behind this Call for Action letter, who have taken the initiative to bring the issue of unsustainable harvesting of old-growth temperate rainforests in BC to the attention of the Province and people world-wide.”

Referring to government inaction, Nielsen stated, “It appears the BC Provincial Government will only make changes to legislation governing harvesting operations when pressured by various stakeholders (including the public, scientific experts, First Nations, forest licensees and [environmental non-governmental organizations]), as evidenced by the Clayoquot Sound, Haida Gwaii and Great Bear Rainforest proceedings.”

Nielsen continued, “This Call for Action, perhaps along with global public pressure (or, dare I say, a global boycott of old-growth wood products), First Nations’ support and a substantial increase to monitoring and enforcement efforts from the BC Forest Practices Board, may just be the steps required on the pathway to improving the management of second and third-growth forests and protecting the remnants of old-growth rainforest left in BC.”

Nielsen highlighted the significance of the issue: “Once contiguous tracts of old-growth forest are harvested, the biodiversity, biomass, cultural values and ecosystem services that these landscapes possess, to name but just a few attributes that contribute to their global significance, will be gone forever.

“The benefits of protecting these forests reach far beyond this human generation, but the economic cost of preserving these now scarce, forested ecosystems are left for this generation (and this government) to bear.” – Julie Nielsen, SFU PhD candidate

Nielsen commented that “It seems the only avenue available to scientists, academics, and experts alike to break the cycle of old-growth liquidation, is to inform and urge the Government of BC through a Call to Action.” She continued “I have hope the Provincial Government will take an evidence-based scientific approach to begin the steps required to conserve the remaining tracts of old-growth forest in BC.”

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