Society crowdfunds to 'buy' old-growth forests

An environmental non-profit is trying an alternative tactic to prevent old-growth logging in the wider area around the the Fairy Creek watershed, near Port Renfrew.

The Canadian Orca Rescue Society is launching a fundraiser this week in an attempt to crowdfund enough money to match the revenue that logging old-growth would provide to the Teal-Jones Group, the Pacheedaht First Nation and the provincial government.

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“The only reason why they cut the trees down is because there’s money in it. But if there’s more money in leaving the trees standing, they’ll probably leave the trees standing,” said Eric Pittman, director of the Canadian Orca Rescue Society.

Pittman said they don’t know how much money they’ll have to raise, but he estimates it at more than $10 million. The group has reached out to the company, the province and the Pacheedaht First Nation to ask how much they would need to protect a little under 3,000 hectares in the Fairy Creek area. The province agreed Wednesday to defer old-growth logging for two years in about 884 hectares of the Fairy Creek watershed.

The non-profit focuses on conservation of southern resident killer whales, and has previously fundraised to support a hatchery in Port Renfrew to raise wild chinook salmon to release into the San Juan River.

Pittman said old-growth protection fits the society’s mandate, because logging old-growth trees has an effect on the health of southern resident killer whales.

“Salmon spawn in the forest, and salmon can’t spawn in a river that’s had its trees cut down beside it. They need a specific temperature and specific clarity of water for the eggs to hatch. Once you cut down an old-growth forest and you leave the stream bare, the water heats up, the eggs won’t hatch and salmon won’t go out to sea and the orcas starve,” he said.

Pittman said he hopes the fundraising effort becomes a template for other conservation projects.

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