‘Mos­some’ old-growth for­est found

Penticton Herald - - FRONT PAGE -

VAN­COU­VER — Con­ser­va­tion­ists in Bri­tish Co­lum­bia are push­ing for pro­tec­tions on an area of old-growth forests they de­scribe as “Canada’s most mag­nif­i­cent.”

The grove is lo­cated on Crown land in the San Juan River Val­ley near Port Ren­frew on south­ern Van­cou­ver Is­land in the un­ceded ter­ri­tory of the Pacheedaht First Na­tion band.

The 13-hectare grove of im­mense old-growth Sitka spruce and big-leaf maples draped in hang­ing mosses and ferns was first lo­cated in Oc­to­ber and ex­plored again in late De­cem­ber, said Ken Wu, ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of the En­dan­gered Ecosys­tems Al­liance.

“It is prob­a­bly the most spec­tac­u­lar and beau­ti­ful old growth for­est I’ve ever seen and I’ve ex­plored a lot of old growth forests,” Wu said. “(The trees) look shaggy be­cause they’ve got all this hang­ing mosses and ferns on their branches. So they look like an­cient pre­his­toric crea­tures.”

Most of the grove is un­pro­tected, with a small por­tion — about four hectares — off-lim­its to log­gers through the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment’s old­growth man­age­ment area, he said.

Some of the trees in this grove are near-record sized, in­clud­ing a Sitka spruce with a di­am­e­ter of 3.1 me­tres that would rank among the top 10 in the province, Wu said.

A mas­sive maple that con­ser­va­tion­ists have nick­named the “Woolly Gi­ant” may have the long­est hor­i­zon­tal branch of any tree in Bri­tish Co­lum­bia, mea­sur­ing 23.1 me­tres, he said.

“It’s cov­ered in thick mats of hang­ing mosses and ferns, re­sem­bling a pre­his­toric mon­ster.”

Wu said con­ser­va­tion­ists are call­ing this area of old-growth forests, “The “Mos­some” Grove,” which is short for mossy and awe­some.

“It in­cludes lots of the tall, straight Sitka spruce like Ro­man pil­lars and they’re very im­pres­sive giants along with an­cient moss cov­ered shaggy, big-leaf maples,” he said.

It’s hard to say how old these trees are, Wu said.

“These are great grow­ing con­di­tions,” he said. “The trees can be as young as 400 years old but I would es­ti­mate around the 800-year-old range for the big spruce.”

An­cient For­est Al­liance and other con­ser­va­tion groups are ask­ing the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment to save not just this newly found old­growth for­est but oth­ers too, he said.

This for­est can be saved from log­ging if the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment sim­ply ex­tends its ex­ist­ing old growth man­age­ment area, which cur­rently pro­tects about two hectares of this grove, he said.

The B.C. Min­istry of Forests said in a state­ment that the grove is con­tained in a wood­lot op­er­ated by Pacheedaht Forestry Ltd., and there is no im­mi­nent log­ging planned.

“The An­cient For­est Al­liance sup­plied the min­istry with an up­dated map of the grove area yes­ter­day, so min­istry staff are cur­rently re­view­ing the map to de­ter­mine what pro­tec­tions ex­ist in the area,” it said.

Un­der the Van­cou­ver Is­land Land Use Plan, over 13 per cent of Van­cou­ver Is­land will never be logged, in­clud­ing 520,000 hectares of old growth forests, the state­ment said.

The min­istry is also up­dat­ing the for­est in­ven­tory for Van­cou­ver Is­land and mon­i­tor­ing the ef­fec­tive­ness of best man­age­ment prac­tices re­lated to pro­tect­ing legacy, or big trees, it said.

Wu said con­ser­va­tion or­ga­ni­za­tions want com­pre­hen­sive sci­ence-based leg­is­la­tion to pro­tect not just this grove but all old-growth forests.

Old-growth forests are vi­tal to sus­tain­ing wildlife, in­clud­ing unique species that can’t live in the sec­ond-growth tree plan­ta­tions that old growth forests are be­ing re­placed with, he said.

The Mos­some Grove is home to not just some of the old­est and grand­est trees but also an­i­mals and birds such as Roo­sevelt elk, black-tailed deer, black bears, wolves, cougars, mar­bled mur­relet, north­ern goshawk, pygmy owl, screech owl, Vaux’s swift, and long-eared bats.

They are also vi­tal for tourism, pro­vid­ing clean wa­ter for com­mu­ni­ties and wild salmon, for car­bon stor­age, and for many First Na­tions cul­tures, Wu said.

TJ WATT, AN­CIENT FOR­EST AL­LIANCE /The Cana­dian Press

An­cient For­est Al­liance cam­paigner TJ Watt is seen next to a bigleaf maple tree in this un­dated hand­out photo. Con­ser­va­tion­ists in Bri­tish Co­lum­bia are push­ing for pro­tec­tions on an area of old-growth forests that they de­scribe as "Canada's most mag­nif­i­cent." The grove is lo­cated on Crown land in the San Juan River Val­ley near Port Ren­frew on south­ern Van­cou­ver Is­land in the un­ceded ter­ri­tory of the Pacheedaht First Na­tion band.

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