Forests are not only important habitat for wildlife, but also essential to the human world as ways of sequestering carbon, retaining water and moderating temperature extremes. Current clear-cut logging practices should be stopped.
“If you go down in the woods today, you’re sure of a big surprise.” In fact, if you do go today, you may have to go in disguise! For the de facto owners of every old growth tree that ever there was may not want you to see that they are destroying those woods. The once magnificent old growth forests in British Columbia are now mostly (90%) gone, victims of clear cut deforestation, drought & wildfires, and global warming due to increased levels of CO2. Aerial photos resemble Swiss cheese, with blocks of clearcuts too fragmented to maintain biodiversity.
Clearcut logging has continued since colonial times, largely ignoring the role forests play as habitat for wildlife; as moderators of temperature extremes; as agents for water retention; as places for carbon sequestration and oxygen production; as homes and livelihoods for Indigenous peoples; and as restorers of human health and mental well-being. Clearcut logging destroys not only the dominant trees, but also juvenile trees and other plants and animals above ground. Largely unappreciated, though, is the disruption of healthy soil ecosystems, through which water is filtered and essential nutrients are exchanged between plant roots and fungi in complex symbiotic mycorrhizal relationships.
The present wasteful, uneconomic, unsustainable forestry practices must come to an end. Either we save what little old growth remains, for the important reasons that we are finally beginning to understand, or we completely destroy the remaining original old forest ecosystems, which will require centuries to restore, if ever. There are no magical repair kits.
The present generation will be judged by the kinds of positive actions we choose today to protect the last remnants of our old growth forests.
Ten Key Points:
- British Columbia’s old growth forests are the most biodiverse of Canada’s ecosystems.
- Complex interactions of the biota – plants, animals, fungi, and other life forms – have created an evolving, dynamic equilibrium, which until recent times, have been self-sustaining, and have helped to maintain life, including humans, on our planet.
- In the last one hundred twenty years, commercial clearcut logging has destroyed most of this virgin forest, with its replacement by short-lived monocultures of trees vulnerable to insect pests and requiring high energy inputs dependent upon costly, climate changing fossil fuels.
- While old growth forests contain trees which are many hundreds to thousands of years old, the tree farms which replace them have short rotation lives of 50-100 years, resembling extractive agricultural practices rather than stable functioning forest ecosystems.
- New analyses and research have demonstrated that the conventional wasteful system of forestry in BC no longer makes environmental, social, or economic sense.
- Deforestation by clearcut logging has also been exacerbated by record high temperatures, wildfires, and flooding attributed to anthropogenic global warming and climate change.
- Recent deferrals contain no guarantees to protect old growth forests into the future.
- The Rights of Nature is a new legal approach now being used in several countries to preserve important living and physical environmental systems.
- The Rights of Nature may be the last best chance to legally protect, save, and conserve the remaining old growth forests of British Columbia in perpetuity.
- There is a moral imperative requiring the provincial government to take immediate corrective action.
Important Numbers Tell the Story of Forest Declines
(Caution: Statistics can be manipulated; these are thought to be accurate):
British Columbia, the most westward province of Canada, covers 95 million hectares (235 million acres), about double the size of California. Ninety-five per cent of BC is publicly owned, 94% being Crown Land, a royal domain held in trust. But because of the colonial legacy, much of that land is also legally seen through decisions of the Supreme Court of Canada as the traditional territory of 204 BC Indigenous First Nations. Traditional territories often overlap. Indigenous peoples regard themselves as stewards of the land, not owners, so that demarcation of territorial boundaries is incompatible with the land tenure norms of European settlers. Almost 64% of the province – about 60.3 million hectares (149 million acres) is forested, 77% having been logged. The provincial government states that 13.7 million hectares of old growth remain, but environmental groups claim that that includes scrub or alpine forests unsuitable for logging. Protected lands in parks and ecological reserves cover only 15.4% of BC’s land base (and even less, 3.2% for marine areas). About 9.5% of BC forests, or 5.7 million hectares (14 million acres), are permanently protected.
About 66 million mature trees are cut down annually. From 2001 to 2021, BC lost 8.59 Mha of tree cover, equivalent to a 13% decrease in tree cover since 2000. In 2021 it lost 515 Kha of tree cover. Of the 3.6 million hectares of old-growth forest available for logging, 50,000 hectares are cut annually. An independent ‘Last Stand’ Report in 2020 claims that only 415,000 hectares of old growth forests with big and very big trees remain, i.e., less than 1% of BC’s total forest area. It also stated that 75% of these last critical stands remain unprotected and open to logging, placing these majestic trees on the cutting block of extinction. On Vancouver Island over 90% of the easily accessible valley bottom old growth forests, many with huge old trees, were logged decades ago. The logging industry considers old growth trees to be much more valuable than second or third growth trees. The wood from old growth trees is stronger, more dense, with tighter annual growth rings, compared to second-growth trees with weaker, less dense, more widely spaced rings. Additionally, old growth stands have much greater timber volume per hectare than second-growth stands. Old growth logs fetch from $350 to $700 per cubic meter, while second growth logs only range between $120 to $200 per cubic meter (CBC Report, Nov. 13, 2018). Short lived secondary forests (‘managed forests’ of single species) have been shown to contain less biomass, producing less oxygen, providing less carbon sequestration, offering less biodiversity, providing less resistance to pathogens and disease, supporting less tourism, having less aesthetic value and less economic value, than intact old growth forests. Old growth wood has higher density, meaning stronger lumber, which can carry heavier loads without buckling or breaking. It has more late wood (from summer/fall growth) compared to early wood (spring), and thus more resistance to rotting and termites.
Another way to envision the status of BC forests, is by using a pie diagram:
- 15.5%: protected second and third growth and other young forest,
- 65%: unprotected second and third growth and other young forest,
- 6%: protected old-growth,
- 13.5%: unprotected old-growth, of which 8.9% is at-risk and 4.6% is recommended for deferral.
Abbreviated History of Old Growth Forests in B.C.
The individual trees in an old growth (virgin) forest are far older than the loggers who cut them down. Many trees are hundreds of years older than the country we call Canada. The old growth forests of BC as an ecosystem are older than the birth of Christianity in the Middle East, older than the pyramids of Egypt, and even the advent of agriculture and the first villages along the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers of the Fertile Crescent, as measured by pollen obtained from coring mud and tree ring analysis of sunken trees preserved in lake bottoms in BC. Most of the older archaeological sites along the coastline of British Columbia are dated between 4 and 5 thousand years, with good evidence that humans have lived in North America as long as 10 to 12 thousand years ago. In BC there is underwater archaeological evidence of presumptive older human habitations in areas now submerged, but land-based before sea level rise after deglaciation. Most of the Pleistocene (Ice Age) megafauna (mammoths, mastodons, camels, sabre-toothed cats, giant bears, sloths, etc) living in a tundra habitat, had already disappeared (i.e. had become extinct) at this time, probably due to changes in climate and vegetation, or from hunting pressure by humans. Archeological remains show spear points diminishing in size over time, probably reflecting dietary changes from large to smaller game.
The fortuitous combination of climate, topography, and soil conditions have resulted in the evolution of one of the most diverse, huge, and complex ecosystems on the planet, until …
In 1778, one of the early European explorers, Captain John Meares, famous for the ‘Nootka Crisis’, removed a deckload of spars from the forest at Nooktka Sound, well before the existence of the province of BC. Following the move of Hudson’s Bay Company from Fort Vancouver in today’s Washington State to Fort Victoria, founded in 1843, by James Douglas, unregulated logging was the norm, mostly along the easy-access coastal shorelines. In 1903 newly elected BC Premier Richard ”Dickie” McBride, inheriting an empty provincial treasury, attempted to attract investors from abroad to invest in BC forests using a minimal staking fee. In two years, the annual revenue in BC went from $140,000 to $1,300,000 — a spectacular gain. But this meant the loss of public control and loss of timber at shoreline and entrances to forest-rich valleys, to enrich foreign speculators, mostly from the United States. In 1904, McBride held a Royal Commission on forestry, leading to the appointment of a young (27) forester from Ontario named HR MacMillan, as the first Chief Forester of British Columbia. Under McMillan and several knowledgeable foresters, many from Germany, the foundation of today’s Tree Farm Licences (TFLs) was laid, with the idea of truly enlightened, sustainable forestry practices. In the short span of 120 years, there was a rapid change in energy sources of power, from human to animal (oxen & horse) to machines (such as bulldozers, donkey engines, and rails and trains in the forests), using wood and fossil fuels for energy. Clearcut logging was greatly accelerated with the advent of road building and truck logging in the 1920’s, and a highly mechanized system developed after World War II, speeding up the transportation, milling, and export of BC timber. Unfortunately, the system of TFLs has become degraded into a ravenous clearcut system, increasingly controlled by 1,520 logging companies (as of 2021), using computerized machinery and operating with a diminishing human workforce. Unless the government acts quickly, BC’s legacy of old growth forests, with their high quality wood, will be gone forever. We have, at most, two decades.
The annual 2022 budget for BC shows a revenue of $63.7 billion dollars, with $1.7 billion coming from the forestry sector. BC has a rapidly growing population now at a rate of 1.9% per year, and an estimated 5,286,528 citizens in 2022, including about 200,000 indigenous people. Contrast this with the forestry sector directly employing about 43,000 workers, less than one percent of the total population, and less than 3% of the total provincial revenue. Forest revenue is expected to shrink by $909 million in fiscal year 2024-2025. Even if the provincial government continues to do nothing to protect the remaining old growth forests, it soon will have to provide financial support (ie. early retirement, retraining, working on secondary ‘tree farms’ or the recreation industry) for unemployed forestry workers.
Are Old Growth Forests Doomed?
Unless they are protected by an ironclad legal status, British Columbia’s old growth forests are doomed to extinction. A province-appointed Old-Growth Strategic Review (OGSR) panel of ecologists and forestry experts in April 2020 made 14 recommendations (none fully implemented as of this date) and determined that 2.6 million hectares (26,000 square kilometres) of unprotected old growth forests are at risk of permanent biodiversity loss, as they presently have no legal protection. The provincial government has responded by placing Deferrals – areas where logging is to temporarily cease (for two years), until consultation with the 204 Indigenous First Nations in BC has taken place, using the principles outlined in UNDRIP (United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples), and a May 24, 2022, Shared Priorities Framework to advance Treaty implementation in BC, hopefully through reconciliation and collaborative action. The colonial ethos of usurpations, forest liquidation, and exploitive corporate behaviour is coming to an end, whether we want it or not. If we wish to avoid a crash landing, we must prepare for a better future now.
Despite decades of protests, old growth logging continues apace. The protests have yet to bring a halt to a system which results in forest fragmentation and destruction of wildlife habitat, as well as the loss of carbon capture and storage capacity.
Climate Change Exacerbated by Clearcut Logging
An extreme heat wave in June of 2021 brought several days of record-breaking temperatures, with Canada’s highest ever recorded temperature of 49.6 C. The effects of the heat waves, drought, and deregulated logging resulted in horrific wildfires, resulting in the immolation of human infrastructure (ranches, thousands of farm animals, the villages of Lytton and Monte Lake), 595 human heat-related deaths, loss of huge tracts of forests, as well as untold thousands of wildlife species within them. Then in November the province was hit by another catastrophe.
An atmospheric river of rainfall in November 2021 resulted in record-breaking floods and landslides in the Fraser River valley, which satellite mapping showed to be correlated with forested areas made barren by clearcut logging and wildfires. In the absence of intact forests the heavy rainfall washed out major highways and railroad bridges, cutting off essential transportation links to the east. Large areas were flooded, including the town of Merritt, which was underwater for several weeks. The economic toll on nature and humans has been estimated to range from 9 to 13 billion dollars in damages, which will be borne by taxpayers and not by the logging industry which continues to profit by its destructive practices.
Climate scientists predict such horrendous events will increase in duration and intensity over time, mainly due to the inexorable rise in anthropogenic carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. The government has resorted to crisis management in response to the seriousness of the situation. More drastic and comprehensive actions are required, not band-aid measures, or ‘back to normal’ responses after two years of covid restrictions. The many solutions offered by environmental groups, and scientists in and out of government, have been ignored or discounted for too long. We are reaching a critical tipping point, if we are not there already, when the natural systems operating on earth are unable to cope, and cross the boundaries heading for extinction. The provincial government needs to confront ‘catabolic capitalism’, a term used by Oregon ecologist, Dr. Craig Collins, to describe ‘a self-cannibalizing system whose insatiable hunger for profit can only be fed by devouring the society that feeds it.’ The paradigm of limitless growth is an oxymoron. Until colonization, Indigenous peoples in BC were able to co-exist within nature, without destroying it. Is living within the limits of nature not possible in a modern, democratic province like British Columbia?
Importance of Biodiversity and Wildlife in Old Growth Forests
Humanity is absolutely dependent upon the natural workings of nature. Nature can exist without humans, but humans cannot exist without nature. Old growth forest ecosystems in British Columbia are the most complex and biodiverse of all ecosystems in Canada, yet we ignore the fact that they play an essential role in carbon sequestration by trees (living and dead) and in their soils, producing the oxygen required for life, and performing many other life-sustaining functions, including as the home habitat for several thousand species of plants, animals, and fungi. To destroy a biodiverse forest for just one commodity, wood, no longer makes sense.
Who speaks for the wildlife found in old growth forests? Larger mammals and birds are able to flee or fly from logging operations but their nests, dens and food sources will be destroyed. They will find adjacent areas already logged, or if still intact, already at the carrying capacity, in balance between the number of species and the available resources to support them (See: Malthus, T. 1798. ‘An Essay on the Principle of Population’). Smaller animals and most of the plants, fungi, and the soil microbiota are killed outright by the logging operations, viewed as not worthy of being accounted for in logging operations. Unlike human societies, the old growth forest ecosystem contain a full recycling system using detritivores, organisms that break down dead plant and animal matter, waste products, etc., in a life-sustaining process which naturally recycles water, carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, phosphorus, and other essential nutrients. Old growth forests have much to teach humans, if its lessons result in a deeper understanding of what is essential for true ecological sustainability.
The IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Natural and Natural Resources) has formed a commission on education and communication, creating a goal to red list 160,000 species, of which 142,500 species have been listed to date, worldwide. For vertebrates, 543 species have become extinct since 1900 (eg., the passenger pigeon, the Tasmanian tiger/wolf). Modern extinction rates for vertebrates include amphibians at 41% (the highest rate), followed by sharks and rays (37%), mammals (26%), and birds (13%). The global extinction rate for conifer trees, which make up greatest biomass of the BC old growth forest ecosystem, is 34%. As of this writing, British Columbia has no Rare or Endangered Species Act and no legislation to protect mycorrhizal fungi, now known to be essential for forest health.
The traditional system of clearcut logging, TFLs (tree farm licences), declining employment in forestry, raw log exports, lack of secondary processing, and failure to enact endangered species legislation have created a doomsday scenario for the BC old growth forest ecosystem and the biodiverse community of life within it. Ecocide, the knowing and deliberate destruction of nature, aptly defines the present situation with respect to clearcut logging of old growth forests here in British Columbia.
Recent Research Has Important Ramifications
Dr. Suzanne Simard, a forestry professor at the University of British Columbia, has proven that co-operation, rather than competition, is the norm between ‘mother’ trees with their offspring, as well as with different tree species, as water and nutrients and interspecies communications are exchanged and shared through mycorrhizae (fungal root connections). Her work has demonstrated that a whole new methodology of forestry is needed, and is necessary to be truly sustainable. (See: Finding the Mother Tree, Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest, 2021.)
The Necessity of Change
In British Columbia, if we are to allow its old forest ecosystem to continue to operate naturally, in perpetuity, it will require that we develop science-based methodologies and principles to identify areas of special concern. Globally such areas now include the Amazon Tropical Rainforest, the wildlife of the Serengeti Plains of Africa, the Great Barrier Reef, and the NW Temperate Rainforest, extending from northern California to Alaska. These areas contain many rare, endangered, and endemic species, are highly biodiverse, and are threatened by climate change, pollution, and outright human destruction. The Wilderness Society is promoting the 30 by 30 Movement, to protect 30% of US lands and waters by 2030. By contrast, British Columbia has only 15.4% of the land base set aside as parks and ecological reserves. The Half-Earth Project of the EO Wilson Biodiversity Foundation is using high tech analytics to make high-resolution maps to highlight areas of high biodiversity needing protection. They are proposing to designate 50% of the earth for human civilization, and to set aside the other 50% as reserved for the remainder of non-human species, to continue as intact (unaltered) natural ecosystems. The latest UN Land Report (GLO2) states that human activities have already altered 70% of the earth’s land surface, degrading 40% of it. Of the nine ‘planetary boundaries’, four (biodiversity loss, land use change, climate change, and nitrogen and phosphorus cycles) have already been breeched. Food production for humans is the largest culprit for land degradation, accounting for 80% of deforestation. This is clearly unsustainable. Governments everywhere are expected to build on the report’s findings to locate areas needing protection. Why not beautiful British Columbia?
Can the Rights of Nature be Applied to B.C.’s Old Growth Forests?
In 1972, California lawyer Christopher Stone, wrote a seminal article “Should Trees Have Standing? – Toward Legal Rights for Natural Objects”, such as trees, rivers, oceans and nature itself. Stone’s paper was equivalent to throwing a large rock into a placid pool, producing shock waves which have reverberated in legal and environment circles for decades, and now once again, when the destructive actions of humans against the environment have come to public attention. He promoted the idea that elements (entities) of the natural world have rights independent of any purpose or use those elements might serve for humanity. He proposed that a recognized guardian protect the rights of the natural environment as someone who could speak on its behalf. Justice William O. Douglas cited Stone’s work in the US Supreme Court case of Morton (the Disney Corporation) vs. the Sierra Club in 1972, which began the legal issue of rights of nature which continues to this day. Stone also wrote books and articles on laws and policies for environmental issues, and the need to recognize the importance of morals and ethics.
Recent polling shows that 85% of the B.C. public wishes to see actions taken to protect, conserve and save the remaining old growth forests. Several countries are now using legislation in a new way, to legally conserve specific areas in perpetuity. They are using the Rights of Nature, and recognize the fact that nature, in and of itself, cannot plead for its own survival, but requires legal protection from destruction by human actions. As of 2021, Rights of Nature laws exist at local to national levels in 39 countries, to protect species diversity and whole ecosystems (See Wikipedia, ‘Rights of Nature’, 9/29/22). The Biden Administration recently put an end to large scale, old growth timber sales in the country’s largest national forest, the Tongass National Forest in Alaska, bringing stability and certainty to the conservation of 9.3 million acres of old growth forest. In Quebec 300 kilometres of the Magpie River have been given 9 rights, including the right to live, exist, flow, be preserved and protected, and the right to take legal action, to safeguard the river against potential industrial projects. Constitutional changes, treaties, statutes, local laws, and court decisions to protect rivers, forests, and wildlife are being written to allow natural systems to operate as natural processes, unmanaged, having evolved over long stretches of time.
It is illogical to invoke environmental personhood or subject nature to anthropomorphism in order to save it. There is no actual ‘Mother Nature’ or ‘Earth Goddess’ running the natural order. Reliance on anthropocentrism should be avoided; nature must be protected on its own merits: its own inherent right to exist. Yet at present only those entities with legal standing, or locus standi, have the right to court action. If locus standi was to be applied to old growth forests, it would have to give them personhood, and thus nature could not be owned. At present no ownership can be attributed to an environmental entity per se, with an established legal personality. However, a legal guardian could act on behalf of an entity such as an old growth forest, to enforce its inherent right to exist. Where there is the will, there can be a legal way out of the conundrum.
Applying the Legalized Rights of Nature to Old Growth Forests
The inherent right to exist is above and beyond the needs, desires, and hubris of humanity. It is important and essential that the application of Rights of Nature to old growth forests does not include property rights, personhood, mythological or spiritual values, as these are too ephemeral and subject to change according to cultural whims through time. The Rights of Nature mean recognition that old growth forests did not evolve to service the needs of humanity; there is no such actual entity as a ‘working forest’. Using newly established aboriginal law in British Columbia, there may be a means to circumvent the issues relating to BC Law, which is based on English Law, and which inadvertently prevents positive, progressive changes, especially with regards to forestry practices.
What are some of the Rights of Nature which could be given to old growth forests?
- the right to exist, persist, and regenerate itself
- the right of its natural evolution to be protected, conserved, and preserved
- the right to maintain its natural biodiversity in perpetuity
- the right to respect its cycles of life & death, diurnal & seasonal changes
- the right to renew and maintain dynamic homeostasis
- the right to be safe from destruction, degradation, or pollution from any human activity
- the right to seek eco-justice for infractions in a court of law
- the right to charge those who willfully destroy old growth forests with ecocide
- the right to employ guardianship to ensure that the above legal rights of old growth forests are promulgated
- the right to modify the above legal rights to ensure that the basic premise of protection under the law is maintained.
How? A moratorium on old growth logging would be a logical first step. British Columbia has set aside environmental hot spots as Ecological Reserves; these could be used to delineate areas to be set aside as old growth areas to be left inviolate into the future. Expert advice from the scientific community should be utilized, as well as education, communication, and consultation with interested and affected groups. We must have a substantial reduction of the Annual Allowable Cut to save species and help mitigate climate change. A provincial referendum on the question: ‘Should the government of British Columbia legally protect its remaining old growth forests?’ should give the necessary public impetus and social license for taking action.
When? ASAP. We cannot continue to implement change slowly, while continuing to log quickly. We need to do everything possible within our powers to fulfill our debt to nature.
New technologies, such as eDNA species bar-coding, have helped to track detailed species interactions for nutrition, symbioses for sharing, and chemical exchanges for communications. Such technologies enable us to better predict and understand how the organisms within ecosystems such as British Columbia’s old growth forests keep it in a healthy state. Such deeper understandings are not only adding to our store of knowledge, but also contain a warning to proceed with caution— a classic case of the Precautionary Principle, that to be forewarned is to be forearmed. Destructive forestry practices must be brought to an end now.
Two Important Principles to Keep in Mind
To be effective, the Rights of Nature should be based on two key principles:
The first is that the provincial government understands that science-based evidence is the best way to establish policies and laws with the rights of nature in mind. The provincial Forestry Act needs major changes, to bring sustainable forestry practices into line with modern discoveries showing how and why we must respect the natural cycles of life. In the case of the old growth forest ecosystem, we can use the latest scientific discoveries to fine-tune methods for insuring that nature, without the imposition of artificially managed ecosystems, be allowed to self-perpetuate, without exploitation for human purposes. By learning how nature operates at many levels, from whole ecosystems, and the biota within them, down to the levels of biochemical reactions at the molecular level, a self-sustaining forest ecosystem will ensure that nature, including humans, will be able to exist in perpetuity.
The second is that Informed decision-making takes morals and ethics into account. This means that open communication, cooperation and consensus are the best means for achieving positive outcomes in a democratic society. This broadened view also means understanding and acting on the Precautionary Principle when addressing the rights of nature. The science thus informs us with the best knowledge about the functioning of ecosystems, followed by the wisdom needed for taking corrective action. In this time of crisis, it has become a moral imperative. Bold leadership based on science and morality is desperately needed at this time.
A Final Plea to Protect Old Growth Forests in ‘Beautiful BC’
Everything is connected. All people have a right to live in a healthy environment. Clean and unpolluted air, water, and food for humanity require an equal right for nature to exist as an entity unimpeded in its pristine state. As we realize that the crisis of the sixth extinction is now upon us, it becomes imperative that we act quickly. It has taken only a hundred years to ruin an ecosystem at least ten thousand years old. Once a species or ecosystem is gone, it is gone forever.
British Columbia’s old growth forests are one of nature’s built-in insurance policies against extinction. That policy must be entrenched by using the rights of nature to legally save what is left of old growth forests in British Columbia. If we are to survive, that is a moral and ethical imperative which requires legal action. By entrenching the rights of nature to save, protect, and conserve old growth forests in British Columbia, the BC government can create a new, healthier, happier, and truly sustainable future.
We all must recognize that an ecosystem such as an old growth forest has a fundamental, enforceable, legal right to exist as an entity, in perpetuity, for its own sake. If it could speak, it would say: “I exist, please don’t kill me!” There are many organizations and individuals who understand the crisis we are in, and are dedicated to saving old growth forests. Please think about what you can do to assist them to protect the remaining irreplaceable old growth forests of British Columbia.
Glossary: Some Important Definitions
Anthropogenic climate change: globally increasing levels of CO2 and temperature, caused primarily by human burning of fossil fuels (coal, petroleum, methane), creating a new geological era/epoch called the Anthropocene and the 6th major extinction of life on earth.
Old growth tree: on the BC Coast, any tree more than 250 years old; in the Interior, any tree more than 140 years old.
Old growth forest: a virgin forest, unlogged, with old growth trees and high biodiversity (containing many species of plants, animals, fungi, and microbiota).
Ecosystem (natural): a defined physical environment, small or large, and the interacting biota within it; for example, the ecosystem in the gut of a termite; fungal symbiosis in old growth forest; a fresh water lake.
Biome: a major ecological unit defined by location, environmental variables, and unique biota; for example, desert, grassland, tundra, tropical forest, savannah.
Secondary Forest: generally a monoculture of a single conifer species, never reaching over 100 years or old growth status, as it is clearcut before reaching that state/age/height/size.
Standing (Forestry): Trees not yet cut or harvested; may be live or dead.
Standing (Legal): Position from which one can assert or enforce legal rights and duties.
Rights (Legal): Legal ability of an entity/person to use a court of law to obtain justice.
Deferral: to put off, postpone, or delay an action or proceeding.
Moratorium: a legally authorized period of delay in the performance of a legal obligation; a waiting period set by an authority; a suspension of activity.