B.C. Parks seeks public comment over plans to protect centuries-old Ancient Forest
Darwyn Coxson and his students have covered hundreds of kilometres studying the forest
The province is seeking British Columbians' help to put together new management plan to protect the Ancient Forest, part of the only inland temperate rainforest in the world.
The Ancient Forest Park, or Chun T'oh Wudujut in the local Lheidli language, is located 120 kilometres east of Prince George. A portion of the area, full of giant trees that have stood for centuries, is in a protected area already.
"These are not the tidy manicured cedars of boulevards in Vancouver," said Darwyn Coxson, who teaches at the University of Northern British Columbia.
"These are survivors of about 500 or a thousand years — they've weathered lightning strikes, ice storms, blizzards, but they are incredibly hardy as long as we maintain this old forest intact."
Seeking public feedback
B.C. Parks is working on a plan to protect it because of both the forest's ecological value and importance to First Nations.
The management plan is still in the initial stages and is open to public comment until the end of March.
Along with his students in the UNBC Ecosystem Science and Management Program, Coxson has spent uncountable hours studying the forest.
"We've bushwhacked through hundreds of kilometres of devil's club [a shrub] and subalpine thickets and into the peaks and down to the swamps, a lot of habitats that have not been visited by botanists before," Coxson told CBC's Audrey McKinnon.
"That's really allowed us to make a lot of neat findings."
Some of those discoveries include rare plants and species.
How old is the oldest?
"The question I'm asked most often is: how old is the oldest tree?" he said.
"We can't answer that conclusively … But some of the trees that have been cut in surrounding blocks I've counted have 900 tree rings."
Some trees like the Western red cedar could be up to 2,000 years old, according to B.C. Parks.
The province's management plan to protect the old growth in the Ancient Forest will also stretch to cover the nearby Slim Creek Park as well.
With files from Audrey McKinnon and Daybreak North