‘Brazil of the North’, British Columbia Razing Its Rainforests

VICTORIA—Despite agreeing to protect trees over 400 years old, British Columbia Timber Sales, a government agency, greenlit the destruction of rare thousand-year-old western red and yellow cedars adjacent to Cape Scott Park, northwestern Vancouver Island.

Let me tell you about British Columbia’s wild woody neighbourhoods and why they are so worthy of defending. It’s awe-inspiring to stand in the presence of big venerable trees with impossibly high canopies. An old-growth temperate rainforest is a salubrious mystical experience.

The forest floor is spongy. Millions of interconnected tree roots and their symbiotic fungal partners, mycorrhizas, extracting and sharing nutrients, water, carbohydrates, hormones and intelligence. Soil is life. Life is soil. As they age, these immense rainforest trees remove more carbon dioxide, storehousing it in their branches, trunks and roots. Stupendous perfection.

Ancient western redcedar 55.5m (182ft) tall, British Columbia. Credit: TJ Watt

Some of these skyscrapers have witnessed six hundred and sixty thousand sunrises, a mere five tree generations from the mile-thick Pleistocene ice sheets that bulldozed British Columbia eleven thousand years ago.

British Columbia’s trees release huge amounts of terpene aerosols that thicken white clouds, a mile above the forests, and reflect incoming solar radiation. Old-growth rainforests are outstanding climate stabilisers. They keep the planet cool.

Collectively, British Columbia’s rainforests make local, regional and intercontinental rain – rivers in the sky that irrigate breadbaskets and feed humankind.

Four hundred million years of evolution has fostered complex self-organising networks of interdependent cooperative biological communities. Today, woody monarchs reign across the landscape and peer over the rugged mountaintops. British Columbia’s trees can withstand 10m (33ft) snowpacks and repeated gale force winds. Some, like yellow cedars, can thrive in the mountains for possibly two thousand years.

A British Columbian ochre salmon wolf. Credit: Guillame Mazille

If as people say, ‘trees are the lungs of the planet’, then our brothers and sisters, the animals: spirit bears, salmon wolves, wolverines, martens, fishers, cougars, moose, spotted owls, marbled murrelets, pileated woodpeckers, racoons and so many others are the veins and arteries, and the wee ones, such as bees, spiders, flies and others, are the capillaries. Together the animals effectively circulate nutrients and transfer energy, they are the heart of the temperate rainforests.

Brooks and creeks feed streams and rivers that criss-cross the Salmon Nation Rainforest. Chinooks, cohos, chums, sockeyes and pinks are born in the rainforests, journey to sea, smell their way home, return to their natal streams, mate and die. Sitka spruce are the temperate rainforest’s answer to tropical mangroves, providing indispensable habitat for raptors, owls and warblers, while salmon, with the assistance of estuary beavers, enrich the forest/river environment, providing food for 138 species including grizzly bears and wolves.

Amidst these otherworldly oxygen temples, it’s the tranquility and occasional cry of a bald eagle, or a whirring iridescent hummingbird that brings joy to my heart. The meaning of life is life itself! And, there’s no finer earthly place to feel that pulse than a British Columbian old-growth rainforest; Mother’s most effective carbon capturers, besting tropical rainforests by an astonishing four-fold.

Two hundred years of subsidised logging has annihilated nearly every one of nature’s unreproducible cathedrals. Alas, less than 3% of British Columbia’s highly productive old-growth, biggest trees with richest biological diversity, are still standing – a measly 35,000ha (86,489ac).

In all honesty, unless these remaining sacrosanct forests are protected, straightaway, they will be chainsaw massacred. Tick-tock. Tick-tock.

Which legacy will British Columbia’s Premier, David Eby, choose: ‘Brazil of the North’ that razed its last great rainforests for 2X4s, wood pellets and deadly heat domes, or, a planetary defender of rare old-growth teaming with wildlife, and irreplaceable carbon reserves that offer freshwater and liveable temperatures?

© 2024 Reese Halter

Agitate. Disrupt. Defend.

Reese Halter is a bees/trees/seas defender.
Unearthly Wails is a special edition, a collection of poetry
illustrated by renowned Ojibwa artist Terry McCue.
Email: HalterBooks@gmail.com to order

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