VANCOUVER — The most at-risk ecosystems should be set aside from logging while B.C. shifts its forestry policies toward a more sustainable system, says a forester who helped write a provincial report on old-growth forests.
The report last April co-written by Garry Merkel urged B.C. to act within six months to defer harvesting in old forest ecosystems at the highest risk of permanent biodiversity loss.
“There (are) some of those ecosystems targeted for harvesting right now,” he said in an interview this week, six months after B.C. released the report and pledged to implement the recommendations from the panel of two independent foresters who were commissioned to write it.
“I do share the impatience of a lot of folks.”
At the same time, Merkel said he doesn’t question the government’s commitment to implementing the panel’s recommendations and the process overall will take years.
“This is very much in my mind an intergenerational process that we’re working through.”
Old-growth forests are crucial to the overall health of ecosystems in the province, said Merkel, affecting everything from the raindrops that collect in the tree canopy to the water that runs in salmon streams below.
The risk of biodiversity loss is high when at least 30% of the natural old forest in an ecosystem is not kept intact, he said, adding B.C.’s old growth retention targets in some areas are lower than that threshold.
The old growth panel’s report says it’s projected that almost all of B.C. would be at high risk of biodiversity loss once most of the available old forest is harvested under the current management approach.
Just over 13 million hectares of old forests remain in B.C., according to provincial data. The report notes as much as 80% of that land consists of smaller trees with lower commercial value.
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