(Image / Endangered Ecosystems Alliance Facebook)

A 13-hectre old-growth forest was recently discovered on Vancouver Island, and conservations are saying it could be Canada’s “most magnificent” grove.

First discovered in October 2018, the area was titled “The Mossome Grove” (a combination of ‘mossy’ and ‘awesome) and now conservation group Endangered Ecosystem Alliance (EEA) is asking for the forest to be protected.

“The spectacular, largely unprotected grove, with several near record-size trees, highlights the need for new policies by the BC government to protect BC’s biggest trees, grandest groves, and old-growth forest ecosystems,” said the EEA in a release.

According to the conservationists the grove, which is located near Port Renfrew, is vulnerable to logging in the area.

Mossome Grove sits on Crown land, where two thirds of it could be claimed by the operations of BC Timber Sales.

At this time, there are no plans to log the area, but the EEA is concerned for the future.

Prehistoric wonder

“This is perhaps the most magnificent and stunningly beautiful old-growth forest I’ve ever seen, and I’ve explored a lot of old-growth forests in my time,” said Ken Wu, executive director of the EEA in a release.

“This is the first time in Canada we’ve located a prominent stand of this rare forest type, with old-growth spruce and maple trees growing together,” said Wu, who has 28 years’ experience exploring and campaigning to protect BC’s old-growth forests.

“The combination of giant Sitka spruce, as tall and straight as Roman pillars, and huge, ancient, bigleaf maples draped in hanging mosses and ferns, resembling prehistoric shaggy monsters, makes this perhaps the most photogenic forest in the country.”

Several of the trees in Mossome Grove approach record breaking sizes for Canada. One ancient Sitka tree stands over 10 feet wide, and is considered the 9th largest Sitka in BC. Meanwhile, a Big Leaf Maple tree that measures 7 feet 6 inches in diameter is considered the 9th largest of its species in the province.

The massive maple tree is also home to what is likely the largest horizontal branch in BC, measuring 23.1 meters (76 feet) long – more than the height of many second-growth trees.

“Hollywood could not make a more stunning, picture-perfect forest than this one.”

Posted by Endangered Ecosystems Alliance on Wednesday, January 9, 2019

The EEA describes the forest at Mossome Grove as “charismatic megaflora”, and the stoic giants have attracted a range of “megafauna” visitors.

Significant numbers of Roosevelt elk, black-tailed deer, black bears, wolves, and cougars, have been spotted in the grove. Old-growth forests are also important habitats for smaller animals, like Vancouver Island’s marbled murrelet, northern goshawk, pygmy owl, screech owl, Vaux’s swift, and long-eared bats.

“Photogenically, this grove should be a new poster child for BC’s endangered ancient forests – and the urgent need to protect their beauty. We need old-growth protection at all spatial scales at this time, to save the biggest trees, grandest groves, and old-growth forest ecosystems on a vaster scale,” said TJ Watt of Ancient Forest Alliance.

Protection

Currently, select regions of Vancouver Island are pilot testing a “Coastal Legacy Tree” policy, which aims to protect BC’s largest trees. The EEA, however, hopes that the policy will expand soon as right now it is only voluntary, and not legally binding. Moreover, the group hopes that areas surrounding old growth trees will also come under protection.

“Without buffer zones to surround and protect the largest trees, and without also protecting the grandest groves, the BC government’s currently proposed big tree protection policy is essentially a ‘Big Lonely Doug policy’ that will leave a few sad giants standing alone in clearcuts scattered around Vancouver Island,” said Andrea Inness, an Ancient Forest Alliance campaigner in the same release.

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