B.C.'s newest Class A provincial park is an 11,000-hectare expanse of the world's only inland temperate rainforest east of Prince George.
Called the Ancient Forest/Chun T'oh Wudujut, the region is being added to B.C.'s parks by legislation introduced this week. Premier Christy Clark said the province is also applying to have the park named as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
"Dedicated volunteers and community members have worked for years to protect this special habitat," said Shirley Bond, MLA for Prince George-Valemount. "Several of the trees in this historic natural wonder are more than 1,000 years old, with trunks measuring up to 16 metres around."
Darwyn Coxson, professor of ecosystem science at the University of Northern B.C., said there is great interest in the oldest trees.
"We've counted to about 1,200 to 1,300 years, and we think they're older than that," Coxson said. "The big cedar stands are in very protected, sheltered sites at the base of the mountain where there are lots of springs. It's very moist and it prevents forest fires from going into these stands, so they're very localized microclimates."
He said about two thirds of the ancient cedar stands in the region have been logged over the years, and the park and surrounding old-growth management areas protect the rest.
The park is a joint project of the provincial government, the Lheidli T'enneh First Nation and the Caledonia Ramblers Hiking Society, which signed an agreement in July 2015 to protect the area's ancient cedar stands.
The society built and maintains three kilometres of hiking trails through the forest that saw 20,000 visitors in 2015.
The legislation makes other parks changes:
• a 136-hectare marine foreshore addition to Halkett Bay Marine Park in Howe Sound, to protect a recently discovered glass sponge reef southeast of Gambier Island
• additions including private land acquisition of 2.2 hectares of land at Prudhomme Lake Park near Prince Rupert, 263 hectares added to Okanagan Mountain Park and 28.5 hectares added to the Sheemahant Conservancy, a remote rainforest on B.C.'s central coast
• removing the words Haynes Point and Okanagan Falls from swiws and sxwexnitkw parks in the South Okanagan, following an agreement reached with the Osoyoos Indian Band in 2015.