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Logging industry targeted B.C. old-growth forests for more than a century, SFU study finds

Logging industry targeted B.C. old-growth forests for more than a century, SFU study finds

Ken Lertzman’s paper shows between 1860 and 2016, 87 per cent of logging took place in old-growth forests

A man in a raincoat walks past a giant tree in a forest.
A man walks past an old growth tree in Avatar Grove near Port Renfrew, B.C. A new paper published by Simon Fraser University professor Ken Lertzman shows that decades of logging on the province’s Central Coast targeted the highest-value forests first. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

The worsening effects of climate change are compounding the historical loss of British Columbia’s old-growth forests, says the co-author of a new paper that shows decades of logging on the province’s Central Coast targeted the highest-value forests first.

“History tells us that we have really depleted these high-value elements of the landscape and that we can’t keep going,” said Ken Lertzman, professor emeritus at Simon Fraser University’s school of resource and environmental management.

“At the same time, [forests] have never been under greater threat from natural disturbances that are driven by a changing climate.”

Some forests have been set aside for logging because of their ecological and cultural value, only to be scorched by increasingly severe wildfires, he added.

That’s the reality today’s policy-making must reflect when it comes to determining how B.C.’s forests will be valued and used in years to come, Lertzman said.

Vital old growth first to be cut

The paper published Monday in the peer-reviewed journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences examined more than 150 years of logging across 8,550 square kilometres of forests around Bella Bella on B.C.’s Central Coast.

Of nearly 570 square kilometres logged in the area between 1860 and 2016, 87 per cent of that logging took place in old-growth forests starting in 1970, it shows.

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