Lush rainforest in the Cathedral Grove on Vancouver Island, Canada.

Old Growth and the Marbled Murrelet

The Sunshine Coast Conservation Association (SCCA) has a long history of working successfully to protect old growth forests, species at-risk and wildlife habitat in the greater Sunshine Coast region.

The value of our irreplaceable old forests for biodiversity and habitat preservation, carbon sequestration, climate change mitigation and natural asset management is immeasurable.

In 2019, the BC government appointed a strategic review panel to investigate the state of BC’s old growth forest. The SCCA participated in this review process. In April 2020, the panel submitted a report entitled "A New Future for Old Forests". The report confirmed that less than 3% of BC’s ancient forests remain. Once logged, these ancient forest ecosystems will never recover.

The old growth review panel recommended that the BC government move as quickly as possible to shift the BC forestry management paradigm. To defer logging of old growth forests while they determine how to protect and manage these forests for biodiversity and ecological values, instead of timber. Protecting these forests is an imminent biodiversity conservation priority.

Marbled Murrelet. Photo by Carl Olsen.
Marbled Murrelet. Photo by Carl Olsen.

Additional Background Information

SCCA Letter to Environment Canada re Proposed Recovery Strategy for Marbled Murrelet (March 8, 2014)

Citizens Petition for Assessment of the Imminent Threat to the Survival of the Marbled Murrelet, Georgia Depression Population - SCCA Brief (April 23, 2004)

SCCA Letter to BC government regarding Marbled Murrelet habitat areas in Brittain River (March 1, 2002)

SCCA and WCWC Win One for the Marbled Murrelet in Brittain River - SCCA Press Release (February 18, 2002)

Conservationists Challenge Decision to Log Prime Marbled Murrelet Habitat On The Sunshine Coast - SCCA Press Release (Sept. 18, 2001)

Take Action

Ask BC's Forests Minister to Protect Old-Growth Now!

My Sea to Sky Letter

My Sea to Sky has set up an online letter you can sign. This is a quick way to get your message to the Premier, the provincial Minister of Forests, and the federal Minister of State for Lands and Natural Resource Operations. Here is Sea to Sky's invitation to you to get involved:

"Urgent! Our ancient forest ecosystems are at risk!

Call for an immediate moratorium on old growth logging while the 14 recommendations of the Old Growth Review Panel are implemented.

In 2020 the Old Growth Review Panel called for a paradigm shift in how we manage BC's forests. We need to recognize that ancient forests have intrinsic value for all living things and should be managed for ecosystem health, not just for timber sales.

We cannot talk and log. Less than three percent of BC's ancient trees are left. Once these ancient forest ecosystems are gone, they're gone forever."

Sierra Club BC Letter

Sierra Club BC has prepared a letter that you can sign. It only takes a few moments of your time. Here is their invitation:

"Thanks to public outcry about how little old-growth forest remains in B.C., the provincial government has committed to a paradigm shift in how forests are managed. This task is one of the ‘to do’ items for forests minister, Katrine Conroy. This task required leadership from day one. And so far, instead of tangible on-the-ground action to protect old-growth forests, we have seen this government continue to ‘talk and log’ the last of the big old trees.

Please add your voice today to make sure B.C.’s forests minister, Katrine Conroy, walks the talk of protecting at-risk old-growth forests by implementing and fully funding all 14 recommendations made by the Old Growth Strategic Review Panel—a blueprint for working with Indigenous governments to protect these culturally and ecologically significant forests within three years."

Why Protecting Old Growth Matters

Marbled Murrelets

The Marbled Murrelet is a small seabird that nests in old growth forests. It needs very old trees (more than 250 years old) and the trees need to be tall. It builds its nest on mossy platforms that sometimes grow in the crook between branch and trunk. The birds need a relatively open old growth stand structure, but they also need their nests to be well away from human disturbance, such as clear cuts.

Loss of nesting habitat is the major cause of population decline among murrelet populations.

Marbled Murrelets were common everywhere in the inlets of the Southern mainland region only 50 years ago. Large flocks congregated in the Georgia Strait and gulf islands during the winter. Today these flocks are not to be found.

The federal Species At Risk Act (SARA) mandated the establishment of a scientific body to evaluate, on a strictly scientific basis, the level of risk of harm facing any particular species or ecological community.

This body is the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). It is COSEWIC that has determined that the Marbled Murrelet is a Threatened species and that the cause of its precipitous decline is logging of its nesting habitat.

The federal government has placed this species on Schedule 1 of SARA. This means that protections (and actions) for species on this list are mandatory. SARA also mandates recovery planning. It is an offense under the Act to kill, take or disturb the residence of a Schedule 1 species (unless one has a permit).

With our Habitat Area Nomination Project, the SCCA is moving formal nominations for protection of old growth marbled murrelet habitat as Wildlife Habitat Area (WHA) unde the Forests and Range Practices act.

Climate Change

British Columbia is committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 16% below 2007 levels by 2025, 40% by 2030, 60% by 2040 and 80% by 2050.

In 2018, BC’s gross greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, as reported in the Provincial Inventory, were 67.9 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (MtCO2e). This is an increase of 4.5 MtCO2e (7%) from 63.4 MtCO2e in 2007, the baseline year for our emission reduction targets.

Net emissions in 2018, after including 1.0 MtCO2e in offsets from forest management projects not covered in the inventory, were 66.9 MtCO2e. This is an increase of 3.5 MtCO2e (6%) from 2007.

Conservation and restoration of forests is a critical part of reducing our carbon footprint. However, Forest Carbon Emissions are not accurately accounted for in BC.

The assumption that new forests regenerating on harvested lands will quickly reabsorb enough carbon dioxide to offset emissions created through extraction, soil disturbance, waste, transportation and manufacturing is a false premise. In highly productive lower elevation zones (i.e. CWHdm and CWHxm), newly regenerating forests may take 50 years to reabsorb carbon emissions from logging, if we avoid cutting them down while they are at peak fiber production (carbon uptake).

Higher elevation forests grow in very harsh conditions where regeneration is abundant, but growth is very slow. As well, these forests have very low-disturbance regimes that cannot produce harvestable stands within the normal planning horizon, so logging in these zones is not sustainable.

Old Growth forests that have accumulated volume over hundreds of years have established carbon sinks that can’t be replaced once lost.

What We've Achieved So Far

The SCCA has a long history with the Marbled Murrelet; we’ve been to court three times, written numerous complaints to the Forest Practices Board, challenged a logging corporation’s environmental certification, participated in various government-initiated reviews, proposed new Wildlife Habitat Areas (about fifty designated so far), and more.

All these efforts were successful in certain ways but didn’t fundamentally resolve the problem of logging in the old growth nesting habitat of this small Threatened seabird, until now!

In the fall of 2020, British Columbia released the draft Marbled Murrelet Implementation Plan (MMIP) and gave us sixty days to make comment. 

Canada has in place the Species-At-Risk Act (SARA). The Act requires the federal government to produce a Marbled Murrelet Recovery Plan. We’ve had this plan for a few years now. There are also two Federal/Provincial agreements in which British Columbia commits to meeting the objectives of the recovery plan. 

The draft implementation plan provides the details of how to do this. The Implementation planners have produced an inventory of all murrelet nesting habitat wherever it occurs in coastal BC. You can check out the maps here

As well, the Implementation Plan contains a draft Order under Section 7 of the Forest and Range Practices Act, that details the amounts and qualities of land that must be protected. The target is to protect an amount of land equal to 80% of the amount of suitable habitat that existed in 2002. Where this standard cannot be achieved, all remaining habitat must be retained. On southeastern Vancouver Island, for example, this means that all remaining suitable habitat will be protected. 

In our area, the Sunshine Coast Natural Resource District, this means that ~14,000 hectares of high class suitable habitat will be protected and all suitable habitat in Old Growth Management Areas will be upgraded to Wildlife Habitat Area status.

Updates on Old Growth and the Marbled Murrelet

Concerns raised over Elphinstone Logging

12 February 2011

Public concern about BC Timber Sales operations on Mount Elphinstone has reached an acute stage in recent months as logging and planned logging proceeds in second growth stands adjacent to residential areas, and in upper elevation old growth.  On February 7, the SCCA published a paper commenting on this proposed logging, in particularbiodiversity protectionenvironmental concerns […]

Province Fails to Protect Marbled Murrelet

21 May 2008

The Forest Practices Board has released its finding on management of Marbled Murrelet nesting habitat under the Forest and Range Practices Act (see the press release below). This Special Investigation was the response of the FPB to the SCCA’s complaint in 2006 about Interfor’s Sunshine Coast Forest Stewardship Plan, which we alleged did not adequately manage and conserve […]

Old Growth Forests: New Values

26 March 2008

A new paper released by the group ForestEthics at the Climate Change conference in Bali says that BC’s old growth forests are a hugely important source of stored carbon. For more information about Forest Ethics and a copy of the report (Carbon in the Bank – BC’s Forests and the Fight Against Global Warming) visit […]

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