UBC Undergraduate Research

Western yew management in British Columbian forests : recommendations for conservation-based management strategies for species protection Woods, Sarah


Western yew or Pacific yew (Taxus brevifolia Nutt.) is an ancient conifer that has been a component of British Columbian Coastal and Interior forests for millions of years. Yew is not uncommon within its range, with distribution patterns ranging from scattered to dense patches depending on the site. However, the species is fairly sensitive as it is slow growing with a narrow ecological range. Past lessons of overexploitation for the species’ anticarcinogen properties have shown how easily it is to virtually eliminate yew from stands where it naturally occurs. Harvesting practices continue to be a serious threat to Western yew and with limited species conservation forest legislation in the province, there appears to be little consideration for this tree’s ecological services and importance to First Nations groups. The essay provides a literature review on Western yew, describing its major characteristics, ecological and social significance, and threats to its health and sustainability. The report then analyses the potential direction of Western yew management in BC’s forests by discussing the first steps to innovative forest practices provided by the Forest and Range Practices Act and the Auditor General’s report on BC’s forest practices. The implementation of Western yew protection in BC forest management is then discussed using the Haida Gwaii Strategic Land Use Agreement as a primary example of a species specific conservation strategy. Given the success of this strategy, the report recommends similar approaches to be executed in other forest districts within the province in order to encourage the conservation of Western yew throughout its natural range.

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