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Posted February 11, 2011

Watchdog wants big trees protected

Creative ways should be found to protect the ancient giants in B.C.'s forests, says the Forest Practices Board.

Times Colonist - Judith Lavoie, February 11, 2011

Watchdog wants big trees protected
Click for larger image

A giant 14ft diameter old-growth redcedar stump sits among dozens more in the clearcut near Port Renfrew, BC that sparked the complaint to the Forest Practices Board last year.
Photo by TJ Watt

Creative ways should be found to protect the ancient giants in B.C.'s forests, says the Forest Practices Board.

The watchdog board investigated a complaint about massive old-growth trees being cut near Port Renfrew and concluded that, although the forest company -Teal Cedar Products Ltd. -did nothing wrong, government and forest companies should pay more attention to trees of exceptional size, form, age or historical significance.

"This complaint highlights the strong public interest in seeing more ancient trees and forest stands preserved to live out their natural lives and functions and managed as a social, economic and ecological asset to the public and surrounding communities," said board chairman Al Gorley.

The report says such trees "can inspire awe and reverence, a sense of spirituality and connection to past events."

Public awareness of special trees -often between 500 and 1,000 years old -is increasing as forest areas become more accessible, Gorley said. "From a public relations point of view, for the logging companies it's sometimes going to make more sense to leave [the trees] there," he said in an interview.

But the board stopped short of recommending hard and fast rules and, instead, is suggesting voluntary co-operation.

Forest companies could incorporate special trees into leave-alone areas, roads and landing areas could be planned to protect big trees or logging boundaries moved so big trees are not in the cutting area, Gorley said.

Some giant trees are protected through old-growth management areas and parks, but no one knows whether the most valuable and unusual sites are protected because B.C.'s forestry inventory and policies do not differentiate between forest stands 250 years old and those 500 years or older, the report says.

"A result is that the discovery of ancient, exceptional and irreplaceable trees often occurs with the onset of harvest planning. This situation can lead to public uncertainty and a sense of urgency and conflict in considering whether, in the circumstances, such trees should be protected," it says.

Gorley said he does not know whether voluntary measures are enough to protect special trees.

"Time will tell. If over time we find we are losing them, then maybe government will feel it has to actually enact more specific rules," he said.

The giant stumps near Port Renfrew were discovered close to a grove of huge trees, nicknamed Avatar Grove by the Ancient Forest Alliance, a group pushing for oldgrowth protection.

After photographs of the grove and the stumps were made public, an increasing number of hikers and tourists visited the area.

Ken Wu of the Ancient Forest Alliance said government needs to immediately expand the number of oldgrowth management areas and sites such as Avatar Grove should be given full protection.


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