The West Kootenays are located in the inland temperate rainforest region, a globally rare forest landscape that has old growth stands of cedar, hemlock, pine, fir and spruce. It is home to important plant and animal species at risk, including mountain caribou, grizzly bear, wolverine, fisher, northern goshawk, flammulated owl, pileated woodpecker, western screech-owl, and sturgeon.

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Protecting Old Growth Forests

The inland temperate rainforest covers 40 million acres and stretches 700 miles in a broad arc from central Idaho to Prince George. In our corner of the province, it’s found in the Columbia and Rocky Mountains.

Old growth forests support people, communities, jobs, plants and animals. These forests are a critical reservoir for carbon and nutrients. They are an important part of avoiding the worst consequences of the climate crisis. 

BC’s current forest policy and regulations are insufficient to maintain healthy, sustainable forested ecosystems, particularly in the face of climate change and the need to manage for ecosystem resilience.

In many areas of the Kootenays, only 3-4% of the forest is to be retained as Old Growth Management Areas. The remainder can be harvested.  

In addition to very low targets, an internal report by the Province showed that in the West Kootenay, only 17.5% of forests within Old Growth Management Areas are actually old, while some of the best remaining pockets of old forest are not protected and continue to be logged. The amount of protected old forest is a fraction of the area legally required for old growth protection.

We need a moratorium on logging old growth forests now!

You can help by signing our petition and by letting your MLA know that the BC government needs to do more to protect old growth forests. You can also help by supporting EcoSociety’s efforts through volunteering or donating.

EcoSociety’s conservation committee is a volunteer group of forest, ecosystem and land use specialists who provide technical advice to our conservation efforts. Their expertise and support are invaluable to helping us make informed and knowledgeable decisions. We thank them for their ongoing commitment!

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Have you stood beneath a tree that is more than 800 years old?

There are many hiking, walking and biking trails in the West Kootenays that take you through old growth forests of cedar, hemlock, pine and fir.

Head out on your own to experience these incredible old growth forests on these trails:

Download our old growth trails brochure.

There’s nothing like experiencing an old growth forest first-hand to help us understand their importance and what is at stake if they are not protected. Know of other trails that have old growth? Please let us know!

Old Growth Trails Map

Tree & Plant Species

Western Red Cedar

Douglas Fir

Lodgepole Pine

Western Hemlock

Engelmann Spruce

Resources

Our friends (and yours!) at the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative (Y2Y) are experts on the plants, animals and activities affecting the inland temperate rainforest and the old growth forests that make up much of the geography of the Kootenays. Check out their info here.

Y2Y has also developed this informative fact booklet about protecting and planning for southern mountain caribou. Have a read and share this booklet with anyone else concerned about the endangered southern mountain caribou.

iNaturalist is a great app to practice being a citizen scientist and share your discoveries and observations with the world.

BC’s Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations Tree Book has concise and user-friendly information on all tree species in BC.

Tree Canada is a registered charity dedicated to planting and nurturing trees. 

Plants of Southern Interior British Columbia and the Inland Northwest by Roberta Parish, Ray Coupe and Dennis Lloyd is still the definitive guide to trees and plants throughout the province.

National Forest Week is Sept 20-26, 2020

It’s the 100th Anniversary of National Forest Week, and the theme is Healthy Forests – Healthy Future.

Provincial events and information.

National events and information.

Definition

Old growth forests vary according to the species of trees and the landscape because each tree species has a different lifespan. Lodgepole pine are considered old growth at 120 years while Douglas fir are considered old growth at 140 years and western red cedar at 250 years.

British Columbia’s Forests: A Geographical Snapshot offers this definition:

“old growth forests tend to have more standing dead trees, or snags, and fallen trees than younger forests. The trees are often larger, and the forest canopy is layered, with openings that allow light, encouraging the growth of ferns, berry bushes and mosses.

Large trees and decaying woody materials such as standing dead trees and fallen trees provide nests, dens and food for many birds, mammals and amphibians.”

Follow & use the Instagram hashtag #kootenayoldgrowth when you’re out taking pictures and see them here!

Sinixt and Old Growth Forests

This material was created in consultation with Sinixt Smum iem Matriarch, Marilyn James. All photos are by Taress Alexis except ones credited separately.

Sinixt Laws

The highest law of the Sinixt is the whuplak’n (whup-lock-en), the law of the land. The whuplak’n lays out how we must treat everything on this landscape. We must leave things the same or better than how we found them for future generations. This means a considered and far forward-looking use of everything that exists here. Sinixt tum xúlaʔxʷ  (toom-who-lau-h) is unceded meaning that these laws are still in force here.

Old Growth’s role in Diversity and Ecosystem Functioning

Prior to European settlement and massive impacts on the Inland Temperate Rainforest, most valley bottoms were old growth. It was just forest. All the parts of the ecosystem contributed to one another in a never ending cycle.

One example of ecosystem interconnections can be seen through how the Caribou rely on old growth lichens as primary food sources; the Sinixt, in turn, relied on Caribou as an important food source. Salmon returned from the ocean to feed animal and human people, as well as the old growth forests where their spent bodies returned to the Earth. (Coalroot by Heather Dewey)

Sinixt Uses of Old Growth

Sinixt lifeways have always been intertwined with the forests of their tum xúlaʔxʷ. Berries, meat, roots and medicines were harvested in old growth. Also, fibre to make pit houses, baskets, clothing, and countless other culturally important items came from old growth forests. 

Old Growth Cedar provided both beams and bark without trees being cut or killed. Beams were removed by making a cut with an adze, high up in a large cedar, and then cuts descending on both sides. Wedges were then used to pry a board from the live tree. Cedar bark was used for baskets for gathering as well as storage. Caches were lined with cedar bark and it was also used to make burial baskets and shrouds. Trees used for these purposes are now known as “culturally modified trees” (CMTs).

Edible Horsetail Lichen (Bryoria fremontii) which is known to the Sinixt as sqʷl̕ip (squil-lip), is an important winter food for caribou, styʔíɬc̓aʔ (sti-yilh-tsa) flying squirrels, deer, elk and moose. It was also a staple and emergency food for the Sinixt. It was washed then pit-cooked with other roots and bulbs and dried in cakes for storage. They then boiled the cakes with berries, roots or meat to eat them.

Devil’s Club (Oplopanax horridus) is known to the Sinixt as x̌ʷuwwugway’lhp. It is a powerful plant with many uses, both medicinal and practical. Traditionally a cold infusion was made of the roots to treat consumption, dry cough and other ailments. The mighty thorns were used to pin sewing together. (Devil’s Club by Moe Lyons)

Old Growth and Water

Sinixt laws are as applicable to current issues as they were in traditional Sinixt culture. The Sinixt recognize the deep value of Old Growth Forests to the ensuring of water quality and quantity as well as the role they play in mitigating the impacts of climate change. A mature cedar processes 150 gallons of water per day.

Old growth forest by Heather Dewey

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