In spite of the B.C. government’s logging deferral of 2.6 million hectares of old-growth forests as a temporary measure to “prevent irreversible biodiversity loss” while developing a new forest management approach, local forest ecologists still have concerns over the health of the ecosystems surrounding Revelstoke.
“Every day, I’m studying the forests’ health,” said Rosanna Wijenberg, forest ecologist, plant health specialist and field research technician.
Wijenberg made the trip to Revelstoke from south of Nelson on Nov. 6 to study and measure a number of old growth trees located at Frisby Ridge, north of Revelstoke–a place which she says is unknown to many in the community.
According to Wijenberg, when compared to the condensed old growth forests on B.C.’s coast., the nature of the climate in the interior leads to fragmented patches of old growth forests. There are a number of those patches surrounding Revelstoke, mainly at Frisby Ridge.
Wijenberg says that the low amount of human activity at Frisby Ridge leads to a good habitat for plants and animals in the area, however the community’s lack of knowledge of the area may lead to more opportunities for forestry to log old growth trees without repercussion.
Cedar trees that are 2.91 metres in diameter at breast height are eligible to be designated under an ‘Old Growth Management Area’ and are protected from being logged alongside one hectare of surrounding forest.
According to Wijenberg and the group of land defenders advocating for the protection of old-growth at Frisby Ridge, the 2.91 metre measurement to designate what is to be considered ‘old-growth’ doesn’t accurately reflect the age of trees as they grow in various ecosystems across B.C.
The ecosystem surrounding Revelstoke, known as a inland temperate rainforest, is extremely unique and one of only a few of it’s kind in the world, according to Wijenberg. She says the size designation used to classify a tree as old growth used on the coast doesn’t accurately represent the age of trees, both cedar and hemlock, in the inland temperate rainforest.
According to the provincial government, the short-term deferral to the cut-blocks north of Revelstoke is in place to help protect the involved ecosystems while First Nations, the provincial government and other partners develop a new approach for old growth forest management. In the mean-time, all B.C. Timber Sales work and advertising is halted in the affected areas.
Wijenberg addressed the specificity of the deferrals, warning that the areas she visited are still not protected, and the approved cutblocks in the area are still to be cut.
The trees are not the only concern for the land defenders; their focus is on preserving the surrounding ecosystems, some of which are upwards of 6,000 years old according to Wijenberg.
The activists said the caribou in Frisby Ridge and the surrounding areas are endangered and, the cut blocks in the area further fragment the herds, making population growth very difficult.
Wijenberg says the logging roads in the area create a highway for wolves, making their hunting of the caribou more frequent, therefore decimating the population.
According to Wijenberg, residents of Revelstoke are tuned into nature, however approach it with a “I love nature for what it can give me” mindset without understanding what they’re taking from it.