Logging practices are putting Vancouver Island’s old growth forests in serious danger, according to new data collected by the Sierra Club of B.C.
The environmental group says that the average amount of old-growth forest being logged each year is increasing. According to a press release on their site, 7,600 hectares of old-growth forest were logged annually between 2007 and 2011. From 2011 to 2015, however, that number increased to 9,000 hectares.
Based on these findings, the Sierra Club is asking the provincial government to help phase out the logging of old-growth trees in favour of younger ones.
“It’s urgent to enter this period of transition now and help [the] industry move toward second growth logging in just a few years,” the Sierra Club’s Jens Wieting told CBC News.
But the government is concerned that any sudden changes could have a serious impact on the forest industry. According to a report by CBC, logging contributes $2.5 billion to three levels of government annually, and employs nearly 150,000 people.
Another roadblock to making the switch over to second-growth is infrastructure. Many of the province’s existing mills were designed to accommodate the massive size of old-growth logs. But as Wieting points out, it’s only a matter of time before the logging industry runs out of old-growth trees and is forced to make the transition anyway.
Towns that were built on logging, like Port Renfrew, are already searching for a future beyond the industry. Although logging trucks once dominated the highway from Victoria to Port Renfrew, the region is becoming a popular tourist destination, especially for anglers.
Earlier this year, the Port Renfrew Chamber of Commerce pitched a new policy to the B.C. Chamber of Commerce (BCCC), which was based on the same idea the Sierra Club is pushing—it makes more sense to bring tourists in than to take logs out.
“People love history and people love this idea of environmental tourism,” Dan Hagar, president of the Port Renfrew Chamber of Commerce, told CBC News. “Old growth, big trees are good for business.”
According to reports, the BCCC, which consists of 36,000 businesses, supports the idea of using old growth forests to promote tourism, but they do want to be careful and ensure they’re considering the needs of the forest industry.
The Sierra Club points to the recent landmark agreement to protect the Great Bear Rainforest, which proves that finding a balance is possible—it’s just a matter of how long it takes to get there.