Ancient Forest named provincial park thanks in part to UNBC research

March 15, 2016
UNBC Ecosystem Science and Management Professor Darwyn Coxson accepts congratulations from B.C. Premier Christy Clark and Prince George-Valemount MLA Shirley Bond. 

Research being conducted by University of Northern British Columbia professors is one of the reasons behind the Ancient Forest being named B.C.’s newest Class A provincial park. That designation became a reality March 15 as UNBC Ecosystem Science and Management Professor Darwyn Coxson took part in an announcement, led by B.C. Premier Christy Clark.

Premier Clark pointed to all those who have been valued partners in the project, including the Lheidli T’enneh First Nation, Caledonia Ramblers Hiking Society, local MLAs, UNBC, and scores of volunteers who have created hundreds of metres of accessible boardwalk, and kilometres of planked trails in the forest. Premier Clark also indicated the Province of British Columbia will work with the federal government to consider this area for a UNESCO World Heritage Site nomination, another long-standing goal of local volunteers, scientists and champions of the Ancient Forest.

“We are pleased to see this formal recognition from the Government of B.C. of the international significance of the Ancient Forest area and the protection of this area for future generations,” says Dr. Coxson. 

Dr. Coxson, along with UNBC Ecosystem Science and Management professor David Connell, has conducted a major program of research in the area, and in 2013 recommended that the area, about 130 kilometres east of Prince George, be named a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The research indicates that these stands of ancient red cedars and surrounding biodiversity are “globally significant” and require the protection and status afforded other rich areas of scientific and cultural value deemed World Heritage Sites.

“UNESCO states that, for a site to be considered for World Heritage status, the area must ‘represent significant on-going ecological and biological processes in the evolution and development of terrestrial, fresh water, coastal and marine ecosystems and communities of plants and animals,’” says Dr. Coxson. “We suggest that the outstanding cultural and biological values represented by this area meet these criteria.”

The 11,190-hectare Ancient Forest/Chun T’oh Whudujut is one of the best remaining examples of the inland temperate rainforest, a globally unique ecosystem. It features large stature ancient western red cedars, some estimated to be more than 1,000 years old, and is home to many rare plants and animals.

Premier Christy Clark along with valued partners in the project including the Lheidli T’enneh First Nation, Caledonia Ramblers Hiking Society, local MLAs, and UNBC.

The area, known for generations to First Nations and other local communities, was flagged for harvesting in 2006. UNBC students and researchers played a role in ensuring the public was notified of the cultural and scientific value of the area and the Forest was later declared off-limits to logging. Since then, multiple UNBC researchers and classes have visited the Ancient Forest Trail site to study the region’s biological systems, and their value for recreation, biodiversity, and economics.

“This is just one example of the tremendous work our faculty are doing every day to keep UNBC at the forefront of significant issues affecting the area we serve,” says Dan Ryan, UNBC interim Vice President Academic and Provost. “This type of research, and the commitment shown by Professors Coxson and Connell, our student researchers, and our staff, demonstrates the value of being one of B.C.’s Research Universities, and reinforces our ranking as Canada’s best small university.” 

“This announcement highlights the research conducted by Dr. Coxson and his collaborators and points to continued opportunities going forward," adds Geoff Payne, Interim Vice President Research. “Having a natural laboratory of this significance will provide insights and direction for the field that are impactful on a global scale.”

Dan Ryan, UNBC interim Vice President Academic and Provost, UNBC Ecosystem Science and Management Professors Darwyn Coxson and David Connell, and Geoff Payne, UNBC Interim Vice President Research were all at WIDC for the announcement.