Looking from a clearcut into a replanted area, surrounded by second growth

The Quadra Project: Protecting Old Forests

At least 1,000 people, representing more than 220 diverse organizations and First Nations from British Columbia, attended the United for Old Growth March & Rally in Victoria on February 25. They marched from City Hall to the BC Legislature, demanding the implementation of the Old Growth Strategic Review, a comprehensive 2020 study that recommended the immediate protection of the remnant old growth forests in the province. Not one of its 14 recommendations has yet been implemented.

The Old Growth Strategic Review included the creation of an Old Growth Technical Advisory Panel (TAP). Its findings are quoted as follows:

Some ecosystems have so little old-growth remaining that old-growth deferrals do little to reduce risk. In these cases, recruitment of younger stands is needed urgently.

“The OG TAP was tasked with identifying old-growth that should not be logged in the short-term. Remnant old forest is identified for priority deferral where less than 10% old remains. As part of that analysis, we also noted whole ecosystems with little to no remaining old forest. These ecosystems are some of the highest risk ecosystems in the province… For these highest risk ecosystems, where little to no old-growth or older mature forest remains, we identified remnant old areas, and then additional forest sufficient to meet the default target with what we term ‘recruitment’ forest; the largest forest in those ecosystems older than 80 years in age.”

On Quadra Island, much less than 10% of this remnant old forest exists. Indeed, less than 4% of “primary” forest remains, so Quadra more than meets the criteria for protection as identified by TAP as a “highest risk ecosystem”. About 175 small fragments representing 600 hectares of this forest is all that remains on Quadra. And because most of our logged trees are at least 80 years old, they fall within the protection recommendations of the Old Growth Technical Advisory Panel. Additionally, Quadra Island, under the Vancouver Island Land Use Plan, has been designated a Special Management Zone. As such, at least 25% of the forested area is to be “mature” forest, which means trees older than 80 years should be allowed to grow to their natural maturity.

Meanwhile, Mosaic continues to log on Quadra, and most of this logging is in the areas recommended for protection by TAP. Sierra Quadra has been trying, with little success, to negotiate for the deferral of logging in these areas, and for the eventual protection of these valuable forest stands for ecological, environmental and carbon sequestration purposes. These rare forested patches, which have been mapped as “Priority Deferral Areas”, should be permanently set aside as “recruitment forests”.

Mosaic is thinking about annual allowable cut and profits; Sierra Quadra is thinking about carbon sequestration, species conservation, ecological protection and the future of our planet during this time of climate crisis. Indeed, our situation, according to all scientific assessments, is dire.

This assessment was once again repeated at the COP27 meeting by the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres. We are “on the highway to climate hell” he warns, “with our foot on the accelerator”. This position is supported by the world’s climate scientists. We must cut carbon emissions by at least 40% by 2030—seven years from now—to avoid exceeding a 1.5°C temperature rise. 

We can only reach this 2030 target if everyone does whatever they can to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, store carbon, save forests, and preserve ecologies. This includes Mosaic. In a crisis that is confronting everyone, Mosaic cannot ethically hide behind its corporate credentials and exclude itself from the moral obligation to do whatever it can to save us from the unthinkable.

The situation is serious. There is no other way to describe it. And if you don’t think so, then you don’t understand the severity, extent and ramifications of this unfolding crisis. After a 1.5°C increase in the global average temperature, we really don’t know what is going to happen, and a sustainable human civilization is in doubt. Climatologists thought that maybe 3.0°C was safe, or maybe 2.0°C. But almost every worst-case scenario from past predictions has been exceeded by a temperature increase of the 1.2°C that we have already reached. Storms are more extreme than anticipated. So, too, are weather anomalies. Oceans are acidifying and rising beyond our control, and species extinctions are unprecedented. Every tonne of carbon dioxide we keep out of the atmosphere by sequestering it in trees gives us a better chance of avoiding “climate hell”. This is not a game. And if it is, it’s Russian Roulette, with all the gun’s chambers loaded.

Ray Grigg for Sierra Quadra

Top photo credit: A clearcut, replanted area and second growth off Granite Road on Quadra Island – Roy L Hales photo