Newspaper article The Canadian Press

B.C.'S Remaining Old-Growth Forests Non-Renewable, Says Sierra Club Report

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

B.C.'S Remaining Old-Growth Forests Non-Renewable, Says Sierra Club Report

Article excerpt

Old-growth forests non-renewable, says report


VICTORIA - One year of logging old-growth forests in southwestern British Columbia blows away a year of carbon emissions reductions made through climate-change fighting initiatives like the carbon tax, says a Sierra Club report released today.

The B.C. government continues to look for ways to feed more timber to struggling sawmills through proposed Forest Act changes, but the government is failing to consider the massive role intact old-growth forests play in fighting climate change, says the report, Carbon at Risk: B.C.'s Unprotected Old-growth Rainforest.

The report says logging old-growth forests on southern Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland in 2011 -- 5,700 hectares -- released three million tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere, about the same amount saved through green initiatives.

It suggests old-growth forests be considered non-renewable resources and be protected from logging because it takes hundreds of years for the forests to return to their previous status as massive carbon sinks.

Scientists cited by environmentalists say that huge, old-growth trees store massive amounts of carbon. Once they are cut down, all that carbon is released, while the resulting clear cuts store only minimal amounts. Experts estimate it could take 300 to 500 years for the forest to return to the same carbon storage potential.

However, a coastal forestry industry spokesman believes the report's findings are flawed, noting scientists also agree second growth forests store carbon and new growth actually grabs hold of more carbon than old-growth forests -- which are essentially, tired, old and no longer expanding.

Rick Jeffery, Coast Forest Products Association president said the Sierra Club is only interested in halting logging.

The six-page report doesn't go that far, but does make it plain that preserving old-growth forests through reductions in logging helps to store carbon.

"Avoided logging of old growth rainforest is one of the most immediately effective actions to reduce emissions," says the report. "From a carbon perspective, converting old-growth rainforest to second growth is like giving away a safe, hefty bank account with a decent interest rate in exchange for a start-up bank account with almost zero money and the promise of spectacular growth based on unreliable forecasts."

The report says about 1.5 million hectares of old-growth forest in the Vancouver Island South Coast area are currently unprotected, and within that area, about 600,000 hectares could be harvested. Those forests store the equivalent of more than 800 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, more than 13 times B.C.'s annual carbon emissions.

The B.C. government's climate change legislation sets greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets of 33 per cent by 2020, compared to 2007 levels. The government said it managed to reduce emissions by 4.5 per cent between 2007 and 2010.

Carbon emissions from forests are not counted as part of B. …

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