Province Announces Protection Of Old Growth On Vancouver Island

I came across a couple of press releases today in which B.C. Forestry and Range Minister Pat Bell announced the protection of almost 39,000 hectares of old growth forest on Vancouver Island. Old growth forests were identified by trees older than 250 years. Is the government finally seeing the light?

Or is it some sort of green washing? I wonder about the quality of the areas identified. Is it protect a bit here, decimate everything else? Will there be a shift from sustainable yield to ecosystem management, and from old growth to second growth logging?

Ken Wu looked at the data concerning the island's old growth inventory in 2008, and reported it in Pacific Free Press:
"Analysis of satellite photos of Vancouver Island in 2004 revealed that of an original 2.3 million hectares of productive old-growth forests, only about 600,000 hectares remained - one-fourth of what was originally here. Of this, only about 140,000 hectares are protected in our parks, or about 6% of the original big trees. In addition, only one-tenth of the original, productive old-growth forests on the valley bottoms - the areas with the largest trees, richest soils, greatest biodiversity, and all of the fish-bearing streams - still remained."
It is hard to say anything bad about the further protection of old growth forests, unless they are too small to maintain ecological integrity. But saving the big trees is what it is all about.

The protected areas announced today are in the northern and north-central part of the island and include: Tsitika, Naka, Adam-Eve, Salmon and White (all north of Campbell River and Sayward) within the Campbell River forest district – and Nahwitti, Tsulquate and Marble (located west of Port Hardy and Port McNeill) within the North Island-Central Coast forest district.

What about the south island district where the old growth forest first began to be affected by industrial logging? The south coast where a whopping 80% of the land is privately owned.
The Wilderness Committee estimates only about 13 per cent of the original old-growth forest remains on southern Vancouver Island, and less – only about 10 per cent – is on valley bottoms where the biggest trees grow. Only one per cent of the original old-growth coastal Douglas-fir zone is protected.

The province also announced today the protection of bits of this Coastal Douglas-fir forest zone, which is obviously needed. 1598 hectares of coastal Douglas-fir ecosystem, mostly on private and municipal land, will go under a new land use order protecting the areas from resource extraction and logging.
The majority of new areas selected for protection are on the east coast of Vancouver Island, between Courtenay and Nanaimo.

Press Releases From Ministry of Forests and Range, July 30, 2010

VICTORIA – The Province has identified an additional 38,779 hectares on Vancouver Island to protect old-growth forests, Minister Responsible for the Integrated Land Management Bureau Pat Bell announced today.

“British Columbia’s old growth forests are known and admired by people from around the world,” said Bell. “Adding another 39,000 hectares nearly doubles the old-growth management areas on Vancouver Island and demonstrates B.C.’s leadership in sustainable forest management.”

On the Coast, old-growth trees are those 250 years or older. The 38,779 hectares of old-growth management areas identified in the coastal temperate rainforest of northern and north-central Vancouver Island will be managed to help sustain old-growth forests for the benefit of many plants and animals that need old growth forest conditions to survive. These include species-at-risk such as the marbled murrelet, a seabird that builds its nests on large branches of old-growth trees near the ocean.

Setting aside old-growth management areas also provides certainty for forest companies, who are required to identify such areas in their forest stewardship plans. By designating areas that cannot be logged, forest companies can plan their timber harvesting and other operations in the remaining forested areas. Many of the areas now set aside were identified jointly by government, company foresters and biologists, a collaborative effort that will benefit British Columbia for generations to come.

With today’s announcement, the amount of old-growth management areas established on Vancouver Island increases to 83,687 hectares. As well, there are about 438,000 hectares of parks and protected areas on Vancouver Island. Province wide, there are approximately 25 million hectares of old-growth forests with around 3.7 million hectares fully protected – an area larger than Vancouver Island.

The old growth management areas are within the following eight landscape units: Tsitika, Naka, Adam-Eve, Salmon and White (all north of Campbell River and Sayward) within the Campbell River forest district – and Nahwitti, Tsulquate and Marble (located west of Port Hardy and Port McNeill) within the North Island-Central Coast forest district.


VICTORIA – Under a new land use order, British Columbia will increase the protection of the Coastal Douglas-fir ecosystem on provincial Crown land to almost 40 per cent, Pat Bell, Minister Responsible for the Integrated Land Management Bureau announced today.

“Protecting an additional 1,598 hectares is an important step in our ongoing effort to preserve B.C.’s Coastal Douglas-fir ecosystem,” said Bell. “Most of the ecosystem lies on private and municipal land, so even with the Province's significant contribution to conservation, only six per cent of the Coastal Douglas-fir Zone is protected. We will continue to work with local governments and private landowners to ensure everyone is doing what they can to be part of the solution.”

The Coastal Douglas-fir ecosystem is ranked both globally and provincially as high-priority for preservation, and is home to 29 endangered plant communities. Eighty per cent of the global range of Coastal Douglas-fir ecosystem occurs in the southern Strait of Georgia area. Of the 256,800 hectares in British Columbia, only nine per cent, or 23,500 hectares, is provincially owned.

The additional 1,598 hectares will increase the amount of provincial Coastal Douglas-fir Crown land protected from logging and other resource development activities to 9,197 hectares.

The majority of new areas selected for protection are on the east coast of Vancouver Island, between Courtenay and Nanaimo. A copy of the land use order and map is available online at:


Ecologists considered a number of criteria when deciding which parcels to include for protection. These included land parcel size, adjacency to already protected areas, risk of being disturbed, landscape context and ecological diversity.

In addition, social and economic considerations, as well as existing commitments for First Nations treaty settlements, were also factors in parcel selection. During the public review and comment period that closed in February, more than 1,000 individual submissions were received.

Establishing the areas for protection under the Land Act is the first phase of government’s conservation strategy for Coastal Douglas-fir. The next phase involves informing local governments and private landowners on actions they can take.

Eleven per cent of Coastal Douglas-Fir ecosystem is owned by other levels of government and 80 per cent is in private ownership.


  1. This announcement by the provincial government is backward and offensice in lieu of their inaction with regard to DL33, Nanoose forest.I would like to see more action and less flimsy rhetoric when it comes to such a valuable and non-renewable resource.

    1. What happened in DL 33 is a crime against nature. I wish the average citizen understood the enormity of destruction in the Coastal Douglas-fir Dry Zone on the east coast of Vancouver Island.

      It won't be long before this eco-zone, once home to some of the largest, most impressive trees to ever grace the earth, will essentially be extinct.

      You are right - we need more action, less rhetoric.


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