Old-growth forests must be protected, say scientists

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Forty-two biologists and botanists have sent a signed petition to the governments of British Columbia and Canada calling for full protection of the country's old-growth forest.

Protecting the forests, the scientists say, will not only help reduce global warming but is a priority if endangered mountain caribou are to be saved from eradication. Only 2,000 of the animals are now left alive, and they are dependent on the ecosystems of old-growth forests for their survival. Poaching, hunting and motorized recreation have exacerbated the effects of logging to push the caribou to the brink of extinction.

The petition calls for a moratorium on logging in old-growth forests over 140 years old, as well as a suspension of logging in nearby areas until the caribou population has recovered.

The scientists also want to see aggressive restrictions on the use of snowmobiles and helicopters, restrictions on the building of new ski lodges and facilities, and the decommisioning of parts of the existing road networks in old-growth forests.

'One can kill animals quickly with a gun, or slowly by destroying their habitat,' said biologist Paul Paquet. 'The mountain caribou are on the slow road to extinction and we are killing them. Their best and only chance of survival is to protect the last remaining old growth.'

This article first appeared in the Ecologist June 2007