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Environmental Groups Sign Declaration for the Protection of BC’s Inland Rainforest Region
Victoria, BC - Twelve environmental organizations in the southern and central Interior of BC say that the area is losing many species of plants and wildlife that are dependent upon old-growth forest and wilderness.
. The groups have signed a declaration that says the major cause is habitat loss due to logging, roads and hydroelectric development. The declaration calls upon the federal and provincial governments to cease logging all old-growth forest over 140 years of age.
"This is a reasonable request," says Gary Diers, a spokesperson for Purcell Alliance for Wilderness. "The public needs to know that after 40 years of industrial clearcutting, we have very little old-growth forest left in this part of BC. There is very little old-growth protected in our parks, and most of it is high elevation, which leaves unprotected the large ancient trees at low and mid elevations on which so many species depend."
"The mountain caribou and many species of plants and animals that need old-growth forest to survive will be wiped out if the government allows old-growth logging to continue," says Rick Zammuto, of the Save-The-Cedar League.
The 12 groups: Applied Ecological Stewardship Council, Argenta Creek Concerned Water Users, Fraser Headwaters Alliance, Friends of the Lardeau, the Granby Wilderness Society, Kids for Caribou, Perry Ridge Water Users Association, Purcell Alliance for Wilderness, Quesnel River Watershed Alliance, Save-The-Cedar League, Western Canada Wilderness Committee, and the Valhalla Wilderness Society.
Chris Blake, Project Manager for the Quesnel River Watershed Alliance, adds "if we protect the habitat of a large species, like the mountain caribou, we are actually protecting many more species that depend on that ecosystem."
And Elisabeth von Ah, speaking out for Kids for Caribou, continues: "Today in a globalized world, where forest and mineral resources fall prey to powerful multinational interests, environmental protection must also be a global concern. Working together with local residents, foreign visitors can also demand a stop to the destruction of the ancient forests. Mountain caribou and many more species are in danger of extinction if the undisturbed old-growth forests on which they depend are not immediately protected from further exploitation, using global economic and political pressure."
Larry Stamm, Executive Director of the Fraser Headwaters Alliance, adds, "If these policies are implemented they would also go a long way towards preventing the wholesale destruction of the water, soil, and timber resources so important to the rural communities of the area, and give us some time to reinvent our local economies in a sustainable and human-friendly manner."
The declaration says that federal and provincial programs to save the mountain caribou have been inadequate. "The chief problem with the current recovery process is that the government has been dragging it out for years while the logging of mountain caribou habitat is going on," says Colleen McCrory, Executive Director of the Valhalla Wilderness Society. "This talk-and-log process is a sham. Logging old-growth forest reduces mountain caribou numbers, it just does it more slowly than if the animals were shot or killed by predators. The government doesn't get to claim it is trying to save caribou while in fact it is allowing its habitat to be destroyed."
"Respected scientists and conservationists have spent years getting to this point. Now it is time for government and industry to listen to, and act on, our recommendations", said Andy Miller, Endangered Species Biologist with Western Canada Wilderness Committee.
The signatories to the Declaration are the Applied Ecological Stewardship Council, Argenta Creek Concerned Water Users, Fraser Headwaters Alliance, Friends of the Lardeau, the Granby Wilderness Society, Kids for Caribou, Perry Ridge Water Users Association, Purcell Alliance for Wilderness, Quesnel River Watershed Alliance, Save-The-Cedar League, Western Canada Wilderness Committee, and the Valhalla Wilderness Society.
"We call this the Grassroots Environmental Declaration for British Columbia's Inland Rainforest Region," says Colleen McCrory. The region includes the Cariboo and Columbia Mountains and the headwaters of the Fraser River in east central and southeastern BC.
The Declaration sets forth the minimum requirements for a program that sincerely means to save endangered species. They include substantially more forested protected areas and wildlife travel corridors, a dramatic reduction in the allowable annual cut, habitat recovery for areas that have already been logged, and elimination of motorized recreation from critical habitat of species at risk. A full copy of the declaration can be seen below.
GRASSROOTS ENVIRONMENTAL DECLARATION For British Columbia's INLAND TEMPERATE RAINFOREST REGION
The undersigned agree that any credible program to stem species loss in the Inland Rainforest Region must include the following elements. We join together in urging the Canadian, British Columbian, and First Nations governments to implement these actions as quickly as possible, and we hereby issue a plea to the world to help us achieve these changes.
1. SUBSTANTIALLY MORE PROTECTED AREAS AND WILDLIFE TRAVEL CORRIDORS must be created and permanently legislated.
2. REDUCE THE ALLOWABLE ANNUAL CUT - a dramatic reduction in the annual volume of forest harvested is necessary to maintain other critical values and functions of the forest.
3. FULL PROTECTION FOR ALL OLD-GROWTH FOREST 140 YEARS OR OLDER, including low- and mid-elevation Interior Cedar-Hemlock.
4. REMAINING INTACT AREAS - roadless areas that contribute to ecological integrity by providing seclusion for wildlife or stability for watersheds and wild rivers must be identified for full protection or other conservation zoning.
5. PROTECTION FOR ALL SUBPOPULATIONS OF SPECIES AT RISK - in BC the most threatened subpopulations of species at risk are sometimes subjected to harmful human impacts, using the excuse that the population is too small to recover. It is argued that protection efforts must be focused elsewhere, where populations are highest. This practice, which takes place even inside parks, dooms species-at-risk to extinction through a process of cumulative local extirpations, especially on the fringes of their shrinking home range. All habitat capable of being used by species at risk is high-value habitat. No mountain caribou herd, nor other endangered subpopulations such as the Granby grizzly, should be "abandoned;" in other words, their habitat should not be subjected to developments and activities that will disturb or displace them. Recovery will include increased, fully protected habitat for each subpopulation.
6. RESTRICT MOTORIZED RECREATION - recreational use of ATVs, snowcats, snowmobiles and helicopters should be eliminated from critical habitat of high-elevation species at -risk such as mountain caribou, grizzly bears and wolverines.
7. OPEN PUBLIC PROCESS - public process managed with the collaboration of the First Nations, provincial and federal governments and must identify the various conservation zones.
8. HABITAT RECOVERY ZONES FOR AREAS ALREADY LOGGED - critical for mountain caribou to survive, logged areas must have recovery techniques such as thinning of forest and brushing alongside roads. There should be no logging adjacent to critical caribou habitat until the forest recovers to natural early seral levels, to reduce alternate prey.
Article has been adapted from a news release issued by Valhalla Wilderness Society.