Old Growth Forests
There are about 13.7 million hectares of old growth forest in B.C. Ten million hectares of these old growth forests are currently protected or not economical to harvest. Old growth forests make up about 23% of B.C.’s forested areas.
Last updated: June 11, 2021
The Province has honoured the request of the Pacheedaht, Ditidaht and Huu-ay-aht First Nations and deferred old growth harvesting in the Fairy Creek watershed and central Walbran areas in their territories.
A new approach to old forests
In 2019, the Government of B.C. embarked on a new approach to old forests, commissioning an independent panel to engage British Columbians and collect their views on the importance and future of old growth in the province. The response was clear from First Nations, communities, industry and organizations: it is time for change.
Since receiving the independent panel’s report in 2020, the government has taken decisive action to act on the Panel’s recommendations, beginning with the immediate and first priorities outlined in its report:
- engaging the full involvement of Indigenous leaders and organizations to review the report and work with the Province on any subsequent policy or strategy development and implementation
- identifying and protecting more old growth in collaboration with First Nations, in addition to the deferrals announced in 2020 covering 196,000 hectares of old forests
- addressing information gaps, updating inventory and improving public access to information
- involving industry, workers, environmental groups, community-based organizations and local governments in discussions about the future of old growth forests
Consistent with the recommendations in the Report, government is committed to working with Indigenous communities, industry and other stakeholders on a path forward to a new old growth strategy.
Since the 1990s, the Government of British Columbia has used a definition of old growth defined in The Biodiversity Guidebook. This definition is based on:
- the age of trees within biogeoclimatic zones
- the frequency of natural disturbances such as wind, fire and landslides
- and when the province’s different forest ecosystems typically begin to develop old growth characteristics
Characteristics of old growth forests vary according to location and tree species, however, it's commonly agreed that they tend to have more standing dead trees, or snags, and decomposing wood than younger forests. The trees are often larger, and the forest canopy is layered, with openings that allow light, encouraging the growth of understory vegetation such as ferns, shrubs, mosses and lichens.
Most of B.C.’s coastal forests are considered to be old growth if they contain trees that are more than 250 years old. Some types of interior forests are considered to be old growth if they contain trees that are more than 140 years old.