Robson Valley Rainforests Threatened

The old-growth forests of the Robson Valley contain the world’s most extensive interior (oroboreal) rainforest at temperate latitudes. The most ancient parts of this 500,000 hectare rainforest are made-up of very old old-growth termed an Antique Forest. This Antique Forest may represent "one of the longest unbroken biological traditions of any forested inland region" at temperate latitudes "an exceptionally rich assemblage of distinctly oceanic ecologies near the Continental Divide deep inland." Ancient Red Cedars, many over 800-years old and 2.5 meters in diameter, are found among at least 30 rare lichen species dependent on old-growth rainforests. These and other lichens are a source of nourishment for some of the most unique and diverse food-webs in North America.

The Antique Forest phenomenon is usually restricted to small watersheds on the windward slopes of the Columbia and Rocky Mountains. The Robson Valley is the only area in which extensive tracts of the interior rainforest occupy a major river valley (the Fraser River). This ancient rainforest and the mountains surrounding it contain over 250 bird and 60 mammal species. Twenty of the mammals are larger carnivores, ungulates, or key umbrella indicator species of Conservation Biology. Twenty percent of the mammal or bird species at risk of disappearing from British Columbia are found in this ancient rainforest and its surrounding mountains (Blue or Red Listed).

This unique rainforest also contains 9 of the 11 wildlife habitats of major concern determined by governments to be at risk of disappearing from B.C., including internationally significant old-growth forests, wilderness areas, and winter range habitats. Moreover, the second most biologically productive (biomass per hectare) old growth forests in Canada and the highest diversity of native tree species found in any single forest of B.C. are all found in this same rainforest in the Robson Valley.

The ancient Antique Rainforest of the Robson Valley is of international significance. However, current logging plans propose 95 percent of it to be destroyed by clearcutting. The surrounding Rocky and Cariboo Mountain Parks contain only island fragments of this magnificent forest. These unique habitats are being clearcut by more than 200 truck loads everyday during the winter logging season as the forest industry claims 14 percent of the valley is already protected so 2 percent should be given back to them. Some of the clearcuts planned in the next five years are larger than 100 hectares and several clearcuts are being linked to create the equivalent of new openings of more than 1000 hectares. Plans are now being made to create a huge clearcut similar in size to the infamous Bowron Clearcut. All attempts to prevent this ecosystem destruction have been unsuccessful to date.

Socio-economic and environmental reports presented by government to the Robson Valley Land and Resource Management Plan (LRMP) predict collapse of the economy and biodiversity because sustainable, nature-based economies will be destroyed by clearcut logging and falldown will close sawmills very soon. Nevertheless, the AAC was re-established at twice the sustainable levels.

Throughout the LRMP, government and industry promoted logging over preservation in the name of economics, even though logging was documented by MOF to generate only 1-2 dollars each 100 years from each 50 cents spent for development, whereas parks generated 4-5 dollars every year from each 50 cents spent for park development of the same lands. Notwithstanding, the top-ranking sites originally proposed by government in 1992 were slashed from the list of proposed protected areas against the majority of the LRMP sectors.

Recent research explains: "the long-term prospects for large carnivores...are not ensured by existing protected areas in the Rocky (and Cariboo) Mountains." Other research recommends: "any attempt to maintain old growth values on the basis of one or a few set-asides is doomed from the outset...there must be a fully replicated system of protected areas spanning the length of the (Robson) valley." Government has ignored these studies and the consensus-based MOF Old Growth Strategy (1992) which mapped Old Growth Planning Cells that would have a maximum clearcut size of 30 hectares in the Robson Valley. Government has ignored science, information, and the majority of LRMP sectors that want government to use its own Protected Areas Strategy map that recommends protecting 50 percent of the Robson Valley.

We need to change the tide of Antique rainforest extinction by preserving critical areas between the Rockies and the Cariboo Mountains. Yet, there are not enough conservationists living in the Robson Valley to mount a broad campaign. Before it's too late, please help us protect the magnificent biodiversity of the world’s most extensive inland rainforest at temperate latitudes.

To help, contact: Save-The-Cedar League, 8995 Loos Road, Crescent Spur, BC, VOJ 3EO, Tel/Fax: 250-553-2325, email:

Rick Zammuto,
President, Save-The-Cedar League