Preserving an Ancient Forest

Our forests are a monument to the past

>>Laura Stovel 

When David Thompson and his men first reached the northern bend of the Columbia River in January 1811, they walked around enormous trees with amazement.

“Cedars were from fifteen to thirty six feet girth,” Thompson wrote, and “appeared to have six or eight sides.” 

He estimated that white pine trees were 18 to 42 feet around, and a few birch trees reached 15 feet around.

Two hundred years later, these resplendent valley-bottom forests are mostly gone — not just physically, but erased from our imagination, too. 


Today, few reminders of these magnificent lowland forests exist.

FORGOTTEN FORESTS

Great runs of salmon once fought their way up the Columbia River and its tributaries to spawn. Their decaying bodies nourished not only mammals and birds, but the trees, too. Yet, since 1940, dams have blocked this incredible feat of nature. Instead, roads have stretched into almost every remote valley to log the ancient forests, and in the process, completely decimated the ancient understory, too.

Today, few reminders of these magnificent lowland forests exist. On the pathways by Tum Tum and Jordan creeks, giant cedar stumps with two holes for springboards remind us of the early forests and foresters. The few giant cedars that remain may inspire awe, but they are only a hint of the original forest.

Yes, forests can be replanted and undergrowth will return, but a managed forest is no substitute for one grown over millennia.

BIOLOGISTS ARE THE BEST

The good news is that there is an area of pristine lowland forest, untouched by road building, logging and mining, and only a short distance north of Revelstoke.  It is one of the most biodiverse patches of land in British Columbia – and it is just a patch — currently unprotected any industry interests. 

Biologists with the Valhalla Wilderness Society have identified an ancient forest and wetland in the Monashee Mountains, including Frisby Creek, and the north end of the Jordan River Valley.

Last February, the society proposed to the BC government that the 8,408-hectare strip of land, including over 4,400 hectares of federally-designated critical caribou habitat, be protected as a Class-A provincial park. 

This would define the forest as “lands dedicated to the preservation of their natural environments for the inspiration, use and enjoyment of the public.”

With trees dating back more than 1,500 years and a stunning number of plants, insects and amphibians, this ancient forest is a monument to the past and evidence of what is possible – what nature can accomplish if undisturbed.

The issue is simple: If we value history, and our ecological future, we need to protect it.