Clearcutting B.C. forests contributing more to climate change than fossil fuels: report

Protective wrap surrounds seedlings newly planted on a clearcut hillside along Highway 14 on the west coast of Vancouver Island in the Western Forest Products Jordan River Managed Forest area. The wrap helps to protect and nurture the seedlings.

 Protective wrap surrounds seedlings newly planted on a clearcut hillside along Highway 14 on the west coast of Vancouver Island in the Western Forest Products Jordan River Managed Forest area. The wrap helps to protect and nurture the seedlings. CP PHOTO/Don Denton

While B.C. aims to drastically cut fossil fuel emissions, a new report from an environmental action group says the province should end an even more dangerous contributor to climate change: clearcutting forests.

The report released last week by Sierra Club BC found 3.6 million hectares of forest were clearcut across B.C. between 2005 and 2017 — an area larger than the size of Vancouver Island.

Those areas are considered “sequestration dead zones” for 13 years after they’re clearcut. That means until newly-planted trees grow and mature, the areas release more carbon into the atmosphere from decomposing matter and soil than those young trees can capture and absorb.

 Conservationists attack NDP government over old-growth logging

After reviewing provincial data, the report found logging in B.C. contributes 42 million tonnes of carbon emissions into the atmosphere.

Add on the 26 million tonnes of carbon per year that cannot be captured because of clearcutting, and those emissions outpace the 65 million tonnes of emissions recorded annually in B.C., mainly from fossil fuels.

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“At a time when we urgently need to be reducing all forms of carbon pollution to defend our communities from the climate crisis, clearcut logging in B.C. is making the problem notably worse,” the study’s author and Sierra Club BC’s senior forest and climate campaigner Jens Wieting said in a statement.

“We can only have a stable climate if we protect intact forests, and we can only sustain intact forests if we stabilize the climate. Both are only possible if we reform forestry and give up clearcutting.”

READ MORE: District of Peachland asking province for pause on watershed clearcutting

According to Sierra Club BC, the province does not include forest carbon emissions in its official greenhouse gas inventories.

That practice should change immediately, the report argues, with the group calling for more government research and monitoring along with an overall end to clearcutting, primarily within old-growth forests.

The report found of the 3.6 million hectares of clearcut forest studied — which amounts to just over nine per cent of B.C.’s total forested land — 1.9 million hectares were old-growth forests.

Those old-growth trees are the best defence against carbon emissions due to their great capacity for capturing the gas. According to the report, B.C.’s old-growth rainforests can store over 1,000 tonnes of carbon per hectare, which is one of the highest rates on the planet.

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 Plan to allow logging of old growth forests draws criticism

“By clearcutting old-growth and older forests, we’re fuelling more global heating,” Wieting said. “We’re putting at risk the future of communities, the forests that remain standing and current and future forestry jobs.”

In his own statement, Nelson city Coun. Rik Logtenberg said local governments’ efforts to reduce carbon emissions will do little to lessen impacts on the climate unless clearcutting comes to an end.

““Clearcutting the forests that surround our communities can have serious impacts on watersheds, dirtying drinking water and putting us at greater risk from flooding, landslides, droughts and wildfire,” said Logtenberg, who also chairs a group of elected leaders known as the Climate Caucus.

“We need provincial leadership to reduce all emissions, including those from forestry, and we need reformed forestry laws to protect and restore forests as a natural defence against climate change.”

READ MORE: B.C. climate plan targets cleaner industry and transportation to hit emission targets

The province’s CleanBC plan, unveiled just over a year ago, aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40 per cent by 2030, based on 2007 levels.

Legislation was introduced earlier this year that would set interim emissions targets that will help reach that goal.

While the plan includes initiatives to reduce pollution from industry — primarily oil and gas — and pushes towards energy-conserving buildings and electric vehicles, it does not mention the forestry industry or logging practices.

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In a statement, the Ministry of Environment said it does record emissions from forestry operations, but does not apply them to the province’s emissions totals “as is standard carbon accounting practice around the world.”

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 Disturbing finding about destruction of old-growth rainforest in B.C.

 

The Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development added it introduced the forest carbon initiative in 2017, which includes planting more trees and hauling away residual waste from forest floors.

The initiative, which is jointly funded by the province and the federal government to the tune of $290 million, has led to the replanting of roughly 12 million trees on the coast and in the Cariboo, with an anticipated 70 million more anticipated by 2022.

The ministry also anticipates 55,000 hectares of fertilization along the coast between 2019 and 2022, after seeing 14,000 hectares fertilized over the past 18 months.

READ MORE: B.C. bans logging in sensitive border area after urging from Seattle mayor

In a statement, BC Council of Forest Industries president and CEO Susan Yurkovich didn’t dispute the Sierra Club’s science, but pointed to its track record in “sustainable forest management.”

“Each year, we harvest less than one per cent of the working forest land base and three trees are planted for every one harvested,” she said. “We have more forested areas certified to internationally recognized sustainability standards than any other jurisdiction in the world.”

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Yurkovich went on to say buildings and products created with forested materials also store carbon dioxide, helping reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  SOURCE

Groups claim B.C. government agency targeting old growth trees on Vancouver Island


Aerial photographs of land next to Cowichan Lake, taken by Sierra Club BC senior forest and climate campaigner Jens Wieting in July 2018. Photo courtesy Sierra Club of BC

VANCOUVER ISLAND, B.C. – A pair of environmental groups are claiming that old growth trees on Vancouver Island could be on the chopping block.

According to a release, environmental organizations Elphinstone Logging Focus (ELF) and Sierra Club BC say they have discovered that the provincial government agency is proposing cutblocks across the last intact old-growth rainforest areas on the island.

The groups claim that a 1,300-hectare area, equivalent to the size of more than three Stanley Parks, is intended to be auctioned for industrial clearcutting in 2019.

The information is based off a review of BC Timber Sales’ (BCTS) sales schedule.

“Vancouver Island’s ancient rainforests have helped sustain Indigenous cultures, a vast array of plants and animals and a stable climate since the last ice age. The province shouldn’t risk eliminating rare species and plant communities across these blocks,” said Sunshine Coast resident Ross Muirhead, a forest campaigner with ELF who monitors BCTS’ logging developments.

“Destroying the last great old-growth stands is a huge mistake that will be looked back upon by future generations as a huge travesty. Remaining intact forests are needed to create linkages within highly fragmented landscapes and to avoid tipping points when it comes to climate change and species extinction.” MORE

 

ON HOPE, HOPELESSNESS AND WINNING THE WORLD WE NEED: FIVE INSPIRING STORIES

March 2019

Fifty years ago Sierra Club BC was formed by a handful of people determined to defend old-growth forests. As we look forward – still defending the remaining big old trees! – it’s a time for deep reflection on where our organization, and our planet, is at.

There is so much work to be done, so many losses already suffered. There’s no hope at this point of stopping climate change—it’s already here—and there’s no hope of reaching our goals without an abrupt transition of our entire economy. Maybe it could have been smooth if we started decades earlier, but no longer.

And at the same time, there is definitely still hope that we can reduce emissions rapidly and do what the IPCC says is needed to stay below 1.5 degrees warming.

In reflecting on climate change, we experience a difficult tension between hope and hopelessness. Somehow we need to hold both at the same time. How do we honour important emotions like grief, while staying motivated to take critical actions that will make a difference?

The Big Stall: How big oil and think tanks are blocking action on climate change in CanadaIn December, Sierra Club BC’s Campaigns Director Caitlyn Vernon spoke at an event hosted by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA). It was the launch of a book by Donald Gutstein called The Big Stall. The book reveals how Canada’s energy sector and think tanks connected to Big Oil have systematically blocked action on climate change.

We’ve been told Caitlyn’s stories inspired hope and action. So we’ve adapted her words into a blog post to share her thoughts here with you. HERE