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BC’s “Chinook Of The Forest” To Perish Due to Lack of Provincial Protection
Government inaction on biodiversity dismantles our greatest existing assets
Lekwungen Territory (Victoria, BC), October 27, 2021: Despite its commitment to enact species-at-risk legislation in 2017, the BC Government approved clearcutting of an old growth forest area containing a rare species. Clearcutting of old growth forests remains the status quo in BC. Cutblock 8022, is in a contiguous forest just outside the Fairy Creek deferred area, which contains one of the largest known populations of a rare and unusual lichen, known as Oldgrowth Specklebelly Lichen (Pseudocyphellaria rainierensis). It’s named for its unusual bluish green colouring on top and pale peach below, a similar colouring to that of chinook salmon. It is unknown at this time if the ancient trees the lichen lives on still stand.
The United Nations says that forests are vitally important and play a major role in the fight against climate change and biodiversity loss. BC’s own Forest Practices Branch states that, “as public values evolve, so must forest management practices.” FPB states clearcutting can no longer be used as a universal practice. Scientists recount the list of broken promises the Premier has made about species protection and the protection of old growth forests. BC and Alberta are the last two provinces in Canada without legally binding protections for rare species.
“This is political. BC has failed our species at risk and our forests,” says Dr. Loys Maingon, one of the scientists involved in surveying in the contiguous forests of Fairy Creek this past summer. “We found 62 observations of 14 species-at-risk including Marbled Murrelets and Western Screech Owls. These discoveries should have stopped all logging in these forests, yet not one of these species has been protected under the current NDP government. The lumber industry reigns above all else,” he adds, “and it comes at the cost of immense losses in biodiversity for British Columbians.”
Dr. Maingon is one of thousands of scientists who agree with the United Nations and the International Panel on Climate Change who together stated that the planet’s climate crisis can only be solved by collaboratively addressing issues of biodiversity loss, which are often connected to resource extraction policies and practices. In the U.S., states have adopted new forestry practices, similar to what has been proposed by scientists who delivered “A New Future for Old Forests,” known as the Old Growth Strategic Plan. It included actions that should take place within six months. It’s now more than a year since its delivery.
BC is almost three decades behind US’s forestry practices. In Oregon, the discovery of this particular uncommon lichen forces an immediate halt to logging. Large swaths of forest become protection zones. The U.S. adopted this management approach for old growth forests and at-risk species in 1993.
The large community of over 600 individuals of old growth specklebelly lichen was discovered near “heli camp” by Natasha Lavdovsky. She credits Fairy Creek defenders for protecting the rare, blue-listed lichen for the past year and a half. Incensed by the province’s continued lack of action, Lavdovsky explains that logging companies have a duty to complete wildlife inventory and management plans before logging and are failing in this duty. Scientists have informed the government about the presence of this and other vulnerable species, yet no action has been taken against ill-prepared inventories and plans that are provided by industry.
This previously unknown population and lichen habitat was recently reported to Teal-Jones to no avail. The BC Species at Risk website states its short term management objectives of this rare lichen are to secure its long-term protection and mitigate their effects from threats. Even the Province acknowledges that the greatest current threat to this rare lichen is logging and wood harvesting.
The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) designates old growth specklebelly lichen a species of “Special Concern” due to the loss of the old-growth forests it depends upon. On October 20, Forestry Minister, Katrine Conroy blamed 20-year-old forestry policy for the government’s challenge to protect old growth forests. Scientists are frustrated by Convoy’s statement because it claims the government wants to stop irreversible loss yet the unsustainable practice of clearcutting continues and they have not removed a clause from past government that states that efforts made to protect wildlife and old growth must be done “without unduly reducing the supply of timber from British Columbia’s forests.”
“For a province who prides itself on its biodiversity and environment awareness,” says Lavdovsky, “it’s absolutely shameful that the government still operates based on these outdated land management practices that in no way reflect the urgency of the biodiversity and climate crises that we all face.”
She hopes that the precious old growth specklebelly lichen that she adores will remain, though admittedly is losing faith as industry is currently logging in the very area she surveyed.