Viewpoint: Island forests need protection

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 By DONNA MARTIN

 Worldwide, many do what they can to protect forest habitat because they know this is the most effective way that we can protect endangered species and ameliorate climate change. But how is that working out?   Tens of thousands of hectares of ancient forests are logged each year in B.C., resulting in a huge climate and environmental footprint. In the past 150 years on B.C.’s southern coast (Vancouver Island and the southwest mainland), 75 per cent of the original, productive old-growth forests have already been logged, including over 90 per cent of the valley bottoms where the largest trees grow.

We write letters, boycott and send donations to support and protect orangutans, songbirds, caribou, whales and many other endangered species from decisions made by people in power and forest companies that are clear-cutting the land these species need to survive. Right here in B.C. we have a forest industry that is taking the best and the heart out of our ancient forests. These forests that help maintain biodiversity, that protect our habitat, human habitat, that provide a canopy from the heat of climate change, that hold the soil in place from erosion, that maintain aquifers, that clean our air and replace carbon dioxide with oxygen and that sequester the carbon our lifestyles and industry produce are incrementally disappearing. 

Standing trees offer more value to us and future generations than trees that are cut and sold. When forests are clear cut, destroying our most important terrestrial carbon sink, degrading water and biological diversity, this obviously does not serve the public good but only serves the self-interest of land developers and logging companies to make money at huge cost to the environment. 

Right now on Salt Spring we are losing trees that we should be protecting. Salt Spring is one of the few places where the Coastal Douglas Fir ecosystem still exists. CDF ecosystems are the smallest of the 14 ecosystems in B.C. and are among the most imperilled coastal ecosystems. Today, very few older forest ecosystems remain in the CDF zone, and those that do are highly fragmented. Less than 0.5 per cent of the land base formerly occupied by CDF forest is now composed of “older forest” (greater than 120 years old).

If you have an older forest on your land, consider placing a covenant on the land to preserve it in perpetuity, or to set conditions for development on the land. Selling or donating land to a conservation organization may also be an option.

For more information about how you can protect and preserve Coastal Douglas Fir Ecosystems, visit the CRD website.

With the provincial mandate to “To preserve and protect the Islands Trust  area and its unique amenities and environment for the benefit of all British Columbians…” we have an opportunity to use this special status to persuade our local government to strengthen our bylaws to protect valuable natural ecosystems in the Islands Trust area.

If you care about what is happening to our forests, attend the local Trust meeting on Dec. 6 at the Lions Hall, and let our local trustees know we need to protect the Coastal Douglas Fir ecosystems on our islands. We can set an example for B.C. to protect the ecosystems that sustain us.

 

The writer is a long-time Salt Spring Island resident.

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