Tree Farm Licence 44 near Port Alberni is 32 per cent old growth, report says

WatchIn what it calls the most accurate inventory ever taken a new report commissioned by a First Nation-owned forest company says nearly a third of its Tree Farm Licence 44 is actually old growth.

In what it calls the most accurate inventory ever taken a new report commissioned by a First Nation-owned forest company says nearly a third of its tree farm licence is old growth and that the percentage of old-growth will actually increase in the decades to come.

The report analyzed Tree Farm Licence 44, located south of Port Alberni, and found 32 per cent of it contains old-growth defined as trees older than 250 years old.

“Of that 76 per cent is protected or outside the timber harvesting land base and the levels of old-growth in the future are more than they are today,” said Joel Mortyn, the report’s author and Western Forest Products’ manager of inventory and analysis.

The Tree Farm Licence or TFL contains 140,000 hectares of land owned by Western Forest Products and the Huu-ay-aht First Nation. Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) technology measured the timber values in the tree farm licence in its entirety for the first time.

The information has been compiled in a report that suggests there’s more old-growth than the public may realize.

“There’s a perception in the public that there’s very little old-growth remaining,” said Mortyn. “For this study I used the data set the province recommends using and I found rather than one to three per cent of these highly productive sites [in TFL 44] its actually 29 per cent.”

The report’s author says the information has been independently peer-reviewed and will help the owners of the lands develop an integrated resource management plan.

The Huu-ay-aht First Nation’s chief councillor says the numbers will allow for old-growth logging to continue.

“It’ll enable old-growth logging to be conducted at a sustainable level and that’s the key for Huu-ay-aht,” said Chief Robert Dennis Sr. “We have to make sure that we have old-growth for our future needs and our future generations.”

But the Ancient Forest Alliance says it wants more higher-productivity old-growth forests protected.

“But to do that there’s going to have to be support in terms of conservation financing. We’re calling on the provincial government to support First Nations so that they can better protect old-growth forests,” said TJ Watt with the Ancient Forest Alliance.

Chief Dennis says he’s reached out to Mosaic Forest Management after it announced last month it’s deferring old-growth logging with intentions to finance the plan through a carbon credit program.

Dennis says he is interested but he wants people to respect their land-use decisions.

“We don’t want someone wanting to tell us how to do things. We’ve had that done all our lives,” said Dennis.

The report will also be used as Huu-ay-aht hosts an old-growth summit later this month as indigenous leaders discuss stewardship and resource management planning.

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Kendall HansonKendall Hanson

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