The B.C. government is protecting 54 of its biggest trees, each with a one-hectare grove around it to act as a buffer zone.
The chosen trees are outside of parks and protected areas around the province, including Engelmann spruce in the North Okanagan, coastal Douglas fir in the Capital Regional District and Greater Vancouver, western red cedar and sitka spruce in the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District and interior Douglas fir in the Cariboo, Columbia-Shuswap and Thompson-Nicola Regional Districts.
The list includes three Pacific yew trees in Greater Vancouver and 14 sitka spruce in the Skeena-Queen Charlotte Regional District.
Forests Minister Doug Donaldson said the initial preservation is the start of a larger program to preserve old-growth forests, more than half of which are already protected on the B.C. coast. The 54 trees were selected from the University of B.C.’s big tree registry, which lists 347 trees that are on either private or Crown land and could be harvested under current regulations.
Donaldson has appointed Gary Merkel, a natural resource expert and member of the Tahltan Nation, and Al Gorley, a forester and former chair of the Forest Practices Board, to tour the province and make recommendations to the minister next spring.
Regulation changes will be passed to set minimum diameter and other factors for protection as they are discovered, Donaldson said.
The B.C. Green Party accused the NDP government of using the big-tree project to distract from a lack of protection for coastal old-growth forest, citing 1,300 hectares of logging on Vancouver Island via the government agency B.C. Timber Sales.
“The amount the government says is protected has been inflated by unproductive forests that are not as ecologically valuable or economically productive,” Green MLA Sonia Furstenau said. “Adding 54 trees to that number is not going to be enough to ensure that these forests are intact for years to come.”