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Forests worth more money intact than in pieces

It turns out that healthy forest ecosystems are good for more than just trivial things, like clean air, fresh water and habitat for countless species.

There is also a strong economic rationale for conserving what little old-growth forest remains in this province.

A new study out of Simon Fraser University finds that the monetary value of forests as carbon storehouses, recreation sites and sources of products other than timber – such as mushrooms - often outweighs the revenue to be had from conventional logging practices.

The study, led Duncan Knowler, an associate professor in the school of resource and environmental management, used computer modeling to assess three different scenarios in old-growth forests near Vancouver; the first based on current levels of logging and the second and third based on more conservation and up to a 33 per cent reduction in logging rates.

When recreational activities ($79.19 per hectare), carbon storage ($150 per tonne) and other non-timber values were considered, researchers found that nine times of out ten, old-growth forests could produce more revenue intact than logged out.

David Connell, an assistant professor at the University of Northern British Columbia who has done similar research on ancient cedar stands near Prince George, says this study is an important part of a growing body of research that could be used for land use management and planning purposes.

Connell acknowledges that the first questions many people ask is “why do you have to place a monetary value on these things - isn’t that missing the point?”

“It’s an attempt to actually play the same game with the same rules,” he says. “Let’s at least try to place a value on the things we can easily value, and raise the level of discussion. Then we can talk about global significance of conservation in ecological terms.”

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