Government takes action on old growth, protects 54 groves with iconic trees

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The B.C. government is protecting some of the province’s largest trees as the first step in a new approach to old-growth management.

“This province is fortunate to have trees that have been standing in place for hundreds of years – some for more than a thousand,” said Doug Donaldson, Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development. “We want to protect these majestic giants so today’s families and future generations can enjoy them, just like our parents and grandparents did.”

Donaldson made the announcement at Francis/King Regional Park, beside some of the largest Douglas fir trees in the Capital Regional District — trees that are already protected as part of the park.

Under a Forest Act protection measure, 54 known big trees from the Big Tree Registry at the University of British Columbia that could have been harvested will now remain standing. There are 347 trees within the registry, and the 54 trees meet the criteria for being protected as big trees. Further opportunities to add to this list will be made available as additional trees are identified and verified.

“We are protecting 54 exceptionally large and old trees, each surrounded by a one-hectare grove to act as a buffer zone,” said Donaldson. “These trees represent an important part of B.C.’s natural heritage, and British Columbians have said they want them preserved. What we are announcing today is the start of a broader conversation about the future of old-growth management in this province.”

The old-growth plan will include permanent regulation changes to protect big trees. Beginning in fall 2019, an independent two-person panel will engage with First Nations, industry, stakeholders and communities on old-growth management.

Garry Merkel, a forester and natural resource expert, and member of the Tahltan Nation, and Al Gorley, a professional forester and former chair of the Forest Practices Board, will hear perspectives on the ecological, economic and cultural importance of old-growth trees and forests. They will report back to government in spring 2020 with recommendations that are expected to inform a new approach to old-growth management for British Columbia.

Currently, 55% of old-growth forests on Crown land in B.C.’s coastal region are already protected from logging.