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A rainforest in BC? Inland temperate rainforest

In British Columbia, it's not only the coastal forests that are wet. When air masses hit the westside of the Rockies they spill their pent up moisture in a big way, creating the only Inland Temperate Rainforest on Earth.

Snowy Goat River valley in the ITR. Photo: Doug Radies
Snowy Goat River valley in the ITR. Photo: Doug Radies

The Inland Temperate Rainforest covers 40 million acres, and stretches 700 miles in a broad arc from central Idaho to Prince George. Here, on the windward side of the BC Rockies, weather systems from the Pacific Ocean collide with the Columbia Mountains to create lush interior forests, habitat for many unique plants and animals.

The Inland Temperate Rainforest is the only place on Earth where temperate rainforests are found so far from any ocean.

 High humidity, heavy rainfall, and deep snow result in lush, green valleys cloaked with red cedar and western hemlock, some over 1,000 years old. These magnificent “legacy stands,” generally found in lower elevations, shade a diverse understory of shrubs, herbs, ferns, mosses, and lichens.

Abundant wildlife

For centuries, the Inland Temperate Rainforest has provided food and shelter for First Nations peoples. It is a source of abundant fish and wildlife, clean drinking water for dozens of communities, and recreational opportunities and spiritual renewal for thousands of residents, Canadian and American citizens, and overseas visitors.

Brown bear. Photo: Chris Weston (UK)
Brown bear. Photo: Chris Weston (UK)

The Inland Temperate Rainforest hosts two of the mightiest and most important watersheds in North America and the world—the Columbia and Fraser Rivers. The free-flowing Fraser still supports massive runs of wild salmon, including the world-famous Adams and Horsefly Rivers and Quesnel Lake sockeye salmon.

The ecosystem supports hundreds of unique species of invertebrates, plants, and lichens, as well as dozens of larger animals, including moose, elk, wolves, wolverine, marten, fisher, lynx, bats, and mountain goats. In addition, some of the last inland watersheds where grizzly bears still feed on wild ocean-going salmon are located here. The clear, glacial streams, lakes, and wetlands harbor an incredible diversity of fish, amphibians, and other aquatic life, including threatened bull trout and land-locked kokanee salmon. It is also home to the endangered mountain caribou, a variety of woodland caribou found nowhere else in the world.

At risk, but change is in the air

Logging, road-building, and flooding from dams have radically changed these once unbroken forests, making them less hospitable for caribou and many other species as well. However, a recovery plan for the rare mountain caribou spells some relief for key parts of the Inland Temperate Rainforest.

Conservation Northwest works closely with Canadian and US allies to protect Canadian old-growth forests and wildlife across the border. We use outreach programs, education, collaborative efforts, maintain close ties with industry and demand accountability from our governments for the health of our shared wilderness. 

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