A new B.C. park will protect an ancient cedar forest believed to be the only inland temperate rainforest in the world.

The northern park. known as the Ancient Forest, contains 1,000 year old trees as large as 16 metres around as well as rare lichens and mosses.

"It's an unknown world on our door step," said  Darwyn Coxson, a University of Northern B.C. ecosystems science professor who has been conducting research in the ancient forest for years.  

The Ancient Forest Park, or Chun T'oh Wudujut in the local Lheidli language, is located 120 kilometres east of Prince George.

Until now, the area was cared for by dedicated volunteers, including many from the Caledonia Ramblers Hiking Society, who spent thousands of hours building trails and a wheelchair-accessible boardwalk.

Ancient Forest 3

Volunteers from a local hiking group have spent thousands of hours building a wheelchair accessible boardwalk through part of the Ancient Forest.

Last year, more than 20,000 people strolled through the majestic forest on a hillside beneath towering trees just off Highway 16. 

Despite its natural beauty and unique ecosystems, the forest's future had been threatened by logging.

Prince George-Valemount MLA Shirley Bond says the government negotiated with companies logging in the area, including Canfor, to set the park's boundary. 

"We have to find the balance between growing the economy and protecting and preserving," said Bond. " We feel very comfortable this will protect both the experience [of the ancient forest] and the park itself."

B.C. says it will also seek Unesco World Heritage status for the Ancient Forest.

Map: The Ancient Forest