WALBRAN VALLEY, B.C. – Conservationists who want the government to take action on climate change by protecting British Columbia’s old-growth forests say they’ve measured a near-record-size red cedar in the central Walbran Valley.
The Ancient Forest Alliance said the tree that it calls the Tolkien Giant is the ninth-widest western red cedar in the province, according to a list compiled by the University of B.C.’s forestry faculty.
It said the tree has a circumference of 14.4 metres, or 47 feet, stands 42 metres high and lies within a protected reserve.
However, logging is proposed for an area 200 metres away that includes another huge tree the alliance calls the Karst Giant, executive director Ken Wu said Friday.
“It’s a tenuous protection, it’s not legislated and it’s a regulatory protection that can change,” he said of the narrow forest reserve around the Tolkien.
“Outside the central Walbran the rest of the upper Walbran is tattered like Swiss cheese. So it means that the little remnants of old-growth are surrounded by clearcuts.
“The issue is large-scale industrial logging throughout the central Walbran valley and for this particular tree, they’ve already cut the other side of the river so they want to ring this area with clearcuts.”
Wu said the old-growth temperate rainforest on Vancouver Island stores more carbon per hectare than tropical rainforests.
He said that when massive trees are logged they stop absorbing huge amounts of carbon and the province’s current measures to protect old-growth forests don’t go far enough.
While the lower Walbran Valley is protected, the central and upper Walbran are not, Wu said.
The Ministry of Forests said 25-million hectares of forests in the province are old-growth and that 4.5 million are protected.
The province has approved one of eight cut blocks for the Walbran.
Wilderness Committee spokesman Joe Foy said lawyers have negotiated a court agreement with the Teal Jones Group that allows its members to witness the forestry company’s logging activities in the central Walbran.
Foy said a B.C. Supreme Court judge narrowed an injunction Thursday that erroneously named the Wilderness Committee as the organizers of a blockade protesting logging of old-growth forest in the Walbran Valley.
He said the injunction unfairly restricted members and the public from photographing or taking video of forestry work, but that is no longer the case.