The Ancient Forest’s provincial park status is official, as the Province unveiled its new sign this past Saturday with some key players on hand.
Amendments to the Protected Areas of British Columbia Act in March 2016 established the Ancient Forest, roughly 120 KM east of Prince George, as an 11, 190-hectare Provincial Park.
“I am thrilled to celebrate the latest milestone for Ancient Forest/Chun T’oh Whudujut Provincial Park, home to some of the largest old-growth cedar trees in our province,” says Shirley Bond, MLA for Prince George-Valemount.
“Thank you to the… leaders and the volunteers who worked tirelessly to make this park a reality,” she says.
However, while the Ancient Forest has received Provincial Park status, upgrades to the parking lot and connecting road are not complete, but should be done within the year, according to the province.
The provincial park, located roughly halfway between Prince George and McBride, received its designation via a collaborative effort between the Provincial Government, the Lheidli T’enneh First Nation, the Caledonia Ramblers Hiking Society, McBride Community Forest, along with several other volunteers who helped to achieve the park’s protected status.
“It’s been good working with… the province and the parks on this project.,” says Chief of the Lheidli T’enneh First Nation, who thanked the First Nation’s elders for the naming of the Ancient Forest.
The Lheidli T’enneh First Nation provided part of the name for the park — Ancient Forest or Chun T’oh Whudujut — meaning oldest trees. The Lheidli T’enneh First Nation is represented on the park sign, according to the province, since the park lies within their traditional territory.
Provincial Park status, according to the province, ensures the area will be excluded from timber harvesting and other commercial activity, which helps preserve plant ecosystems, wildlife habitat and cultural values.
Many of the trees within the park — which make up a portion of the only known inland temperate rainforest in the world — are more than 1,000 years old, with trunks measuring up to 16 metres around, according to University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC) researcher, Darwyn Coxson.
“It’s fitting the new signage at the Ancient Forest trail reflects the heritage of this site: the ancient cedars, the traditional territories and experience of the Lheidli T’enneh First Nation, the stewardship of B.C. Parks, and the dedication of community volunteers in building the Universal Boardwalk,” he says.
The park is now accessible to visitors of all abilities, as a 500-metre wheel-chair accessible boardwalk is a key feature of the park designed and maintained by the Caledonia Ramblers Hiking Society, which prompted the province to include a Universal Access icon on the sign.
Throughout B.C. there are more than 25M hectares of old-growth forests, of which approximately 4.5M hectares are fully protected, according to the province, which would represent an area larger than Vancouver Island.
Thirty-seven per cent of B.C.’s land base is under some type of conservation designation, the province says, ranging from wildlife habitat areas and old growth management areas, to parks and protected areas.
B.C.’s protected areas system includes ecological reserves, provincial parks, conservancies, recreation areas and protected areas designated under the Environment and Land Use Act.
The Provincial Government says it will work with the Federal Government to have the area considered for a UNESCO World Heritage Site nomination, in recognition of the outstanding values of these ancient cedar stands.