Canada’s forgotten rainforest

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The Goat River valley west of Prince George. Much of the valley, including ancient cedars, is open for clear-cutting. Photo: Taylor Roades / The Narwhal

Less than one-third of the world’s primary forests are still intact. Deep in the interior of British Columbia, a temperate rainforest that holds vast stores of carbon and is home to endangered caribou is being clear-cut as fast as the Amazon

On a balmy day in mid-July, in the heart of British Columbia, Dominick DellaSala steps out of a rented truck to examine the remains of one of the rarest ecosystems on the planet.

DellaSala, a scientist studying global forests that hold vast stores of carbon, is silent for a moment as he surveys a logging road punched through an ancient red cedar and western hemlock grove only days earlier.

A spared cedar tree, at least 400 years old, stands uncloaked in the sun beside the road, an empty bear den hidden in its hollow trunk.

“I haven’t seen logging this bad since I flew over Borneo,” says DellaSala, president and chief scientist at the Geos Institute in Ashland, Oregon, a partner in an international project to map the world’s most important unlogged forests.

“It was a rainforest. Now it’s a wasteland.”

Dr. Dominick DellaSala in front of a slash pileDominick DellaSala, president and chief scientist at the Geos Institute, in front of a slash pile waiting to be burned in the Anzac River Valley of British Columbia. Photo: Taylor Roades / The Narwhal

Vast majority of rare inland rainforest slated for clear-cutting

To encounter a rainforest more than 500 kilometres from B.C.’s coast, with oceanic lichens that sustain endangered caribou herds during winters, is something of a miracle.

By all accounts, a rainforest shouldn’t be scattered in moist valley bottoms stretching from the Cariboo Mountains east of Prince George to the Rocky Mountains close to the Alberta border. Other temperate rainforests, far from the sea, are only found in two other places in the world, in Russia’s far east and southern Siberia.

…Following decades of industrial logging, much of what remains of B.C.’s undisturbed and unprotected inland rainforest is now at risk of being clear-cut — including the few unlogged inland rainforest watersheds between Prince George and the U.S. border, 800 kilometres to the south.  MORE

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