National Forest Week - The Greenest Workforce

The American Martin lives in Canadian forests from coast to coast.
Destruction of forest habitat has reduced its numbers.

Everyone likes a party, and this week is a nation wide celebration. National Forest Week asks Canadians to join in a celebration of our trees and forests. How could that be bad?

Unfortunately, most of the information I have seen online is geared toward viewing our trees and forests as "resources" to be used for the sole benefit of humans.

“Canadians can actively engage in this year’s National Forest Week theme by inviting foresters into the classroom to teach students about Canada’s world leading progressive forest management practices. 
Students can also learn about the innovative green products that can be made from forest fibre such as cosmetics, car parts and clothing.” - Dave Lemkay, General Manager of CFA.

The slogan for this year highlights the importance of these forest resources, and focuses on extraction and jobs. The Canadian Forestry Association web site has a prominent headline stating "National Forest Week to Highlight 'The Greenest Workforce' Brand.

What kind of brand is this? Cutting the last of the old growth is not green by anyone's reckoning. In order for a renewable, sustainable cut in old growth forests you would need a harvest cycle of a few hundred years. Perhaps longer, and certainly much longer than a few decades.

Not mentioned anywhere is how many Canadian forests are being depleted, including those on Vancouver Island. The CFA was even created to address this very problem... back in the early 1900s. I am sure they have done, and continue to do good work, but this year's National Forest Week seems to have been hijacked by government and corporate interests.
American Martin range.

This "celebration" seems to have a focus on advertising and support for the forestry industry. Sure humans need forests (it has been theorized that civilization would be impossible without them), but we are far from the only users of these "valuable resources".

Little is said about the importance of intact old growth forests for their life-giving services like filtering water, preventing erosion, and providing critical habitat for species that can't live anywhere else.

To celebrate this week take the CFA up on their challenge to learn more about what is happening in our forests. Chances are you may not like what you find out. From short rotation periods that create perpetual tree farms void of diversity, to cutting visual barriers established by rules that have been thrown out by the BC government, there is a lot that needs to be done to set things right.

After your research you may be interested in joining the real "Greenest Workforce" - they are called environmentalists, and most work as volunteers out of their deep love and respect for trees, forests and the species that live there.

Don't have time to get involved? Consider donating to an organization near you and have them do the legwork. The Ancient Forest Alliance is a good place to start. They are "a British Columbian organization working to protect the endangered old-growth forests of BC and to ensure sustainable forestry jobs in the province. It was founded in January of 2010 and is run by BC environmental activists Ken Wu, TJ Watt, Joan Varley, and Hannah Carpendale."

Happy Forest Week. Wednesday is designated as National Tree Day, so get out there and hug your favourite tree or trees. We tend to protect what we love.


Sombrio Beach Old Growth Fringe

Old growth Sitka spruce hang on in a narrow fringe behind Sombrio Beach.

The easy 10 minute hike to Sombrio Beach is a lot like many of the trails that lead from Highway 14 to the cobble beaches below. After passing through second or third growth forests of mostly small, closely spaced Western hemlock, the trails lead into a narrow old growth fringe of fat Sitka spruce bordering the beach.

Old growth stump surrounded by smaller regenerating trees on the trail to Sombrio Beach.

While most of the west coast of Vancouver Island has been clear cut logged long ago, the Juan de Fuca trail, which runs for 47 km along the ocean between China Beach to Botany Bay (Port Renfrew), retained narrow strips of old trees in some places.

Toward the bottom of the Sombrio trail you enter the magnificent
old growth fringe.

Stunning Sombrio Beach is one of those places that escaped the saw, and its narrow old growth fringe harbours some big and unusual trees. The forest combined with the beach and ocean make this a magical place to be, as many have discovered.

Nice campsite on the sand under old spruce trees at East Sombrio.

While at Sombrio you may feel it beautiful enough to live permanently among the salt sprayed spruce, and indeed in simpler times a group of freedom-loving people did just that. The establishment of the Juan de Fuca Trail in 1994 meant the end of an era, and by 1997 the last Sombrians were served eviction notices.

Looking down Sombrio River from the suspension bridge toward the surf.
Photo: introvert3

You may not be able to stay for decades as some did in the past, but today you can camp under the canopy of the big spruce trees for up to 14 days. Most people take 3 to 5 days to complete the trail, although there are ambitious types that run its muddy, glorious 47 km in a single day.

Not me.

Western hemlock often start on logs and stumps. Eventually, the log or stump
 rots away leaving trees on root stilts like this one behind Sombrio Beach.

When I do the trail, I will max out and plan on 10 to 14 days to really let the magic sink deep into my bones.

Just enjoying the old growth in the Sombrio area could keep me busy for days.


New on VIBT - Tree Identification

I have added a new button at the top of this blog underneath the title banner. Clicking on the "Tree Identification" button will take the curious forest adventurer to a page with tree identification information. A link is provided that will lead the extra-curious to even more information about the British Columbia's amazing trees.

Learning more about the unique forests of Vancouver Island could consist of vacationing among the trees and identifying a few. Or, it could mean spending a lifetime getting to know the neon green forests of wrinkly, moss covered giants. Unlike the ancient trees around you, your fascination will never grow old.

The information on the id page was selectively harvested from the forest of information that has been
compiled by the government of British Columbia.

The Tree Book, one such government publication, is a basic introduction to the major tree species in the province. Of these, most grow on Vancouver Island, and of those I have selected a few of the more obvious and sought after tree species to share.

Enjoy learning more about Vancouver Island's big beautiful trees, and next time you are out in the forest you can put your tree knowledge to the test.

The more you learn about these trees, the more you will want to protect them and the special places that they grow.

Click on the Tree Identification page button above, or click here to connect directly.


Vancouver Island's Urban Forests At Risk

Urban trees enhance the environment and add to our quality of life.

"New mapping by Habitat Acquisition Trust has revealed that in the six years between 2005 and 2011 the thirteen CRD municipalities lost 1037 hectares (2564 acres) of tree cover."

"Trees are falling in every municipality from Sidney to Sooke." So states a new study by the Habitat Acquisition Trust that looks at the state of the Victoria region's forest cover.

Trees are important wherever they grow, and their services are wide-ranging and irreplaceable. Fewer trees means a degraded environment that is less suitable for human and wildlife habitation. Therefore the loss of urban forests represents a serious threat to the quality of life on south Vancouver Island.

Highlights of the Results

Of the 13 CRD municipalities, in the 6 years between 2005 and 2011:

• The District of Saanich lost the most tree cover: 378 hectares. Langford was next losing 118 hectares of tree cover.
• The City of Victoria lost the largest percentage of its remaining tree cover - 8.8%. In absolute terms, this was only 42 hectares, but the City of Victoria has a relatively small amount of tree cover.
• The Town of Sidney lost the least amount of tree cover at 7 hectares, but that accounts for 7.5% of the small municipality’s remaining tree cover.
• Metchosin lost just 1.3% of its tree cover (66 hectares), the lowest percentage of any municipality. Highlands was next best, losing only 1.4% (46 hectares) of its tree cover.
• Highlands also has the highest level of tree cover in the region: 84% of the municipality is treed. Sidney is the least treed - only 18.3% of the town has tree cover.

The biggest losses resulted from urban development and expansion of agricultural operations. Many trees are cut on private property and not just development properties. 

  • Reduce the rate of tree loss, and plant new trees when appropriate.
  • Encourage municipalities to formulate and implement an Urban Forest Strategy aimed at achieving a sustainable urban forest with no net loss of cover.
  • Solicit the help of private landowners who can care for existing trees, and plant new ones, and agree to permanently protect their property with a conservation covenant, or as a park or nature sanctuary.
  • Landscape with native trees and other plants.
  • Leaving buffer zones of native trees and plants between developments and waterways helps control erosion, filter water, and enhance salmon habitat.

Read the full Habitat Acquisition Trust report here (pfd).

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