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B.C.'s Avatar Grove needs park status, say environmentalists

A B.C. environmental group is applauding a decision to save a stand of old growth trees on Vancouver Island nicknamed the Avatar Grove from logging, but says the trees need more permanent protection.

CBC News, July 26, 2011

B.C.'s Avatar Grove needs park status, say environmentalists
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Photographer TJ Watt stands beside the largest redcedar in the lower Avatar Grove.
AFA Photo

A B.C. environmental group is applauding a decision to save a stand of old growth trees on Vancouver Island nicknamed the Avatar Grove from logging, but says the trees need more permanent protection.

The 50 hectare area grove on the southwest coast of Vancouver Island contains some of the oldest Douglas fir and western red cedars found in any valley on the island, yet it is only a 15 minute drive from the logging town of Port Renfrew.

It was discovered two years ago by an environmentalist who named it after the popular movie by James Cameron in an attempt to draw a connection to the environmental destruction of a fictional ecotopia depicted in the movie.

“It’s hard to believe how far, how fast, the campaign to protect the Avatar Grove has come in just a year and a half ago when I stumbled across this incredible stand of ancient trees," said photographer TJ Watt who found the Avatar Grove in December, 2009.

Port Renfrew, B.C."In a short time it has become all the rage for thousands of nature-loving tourists coming from far and wide," said Watts in a statement.

Ancient Forest Alliance spokesperson Ken Wu says its high profile is one reason the province has decided to designate the area as an Old Growth Management Area and save it from logging.

"I know there's huge support for the simple reason being it's a major economic driver for the town. This is not a place where protestors go. It's a place where tourists of all types go," said Wu.

Similar groves of old growth trees such as Cathedral Grove near Port Alberni and the Big Tree Trail on Meares Island near Tofino have become popular tourist attractions.

The move to protect the grove has the support of the local chamber of commerce and the logging company that has the cutting rights to the area, but Wu says without park status, there is no guarantee the grove will not be logged in the future.

"An OGM area is sort of like wearing a bear costume while foraging near grizzlies. You're never totally confident the protection is going to last," said Wu.

"In the larger picture, of course, we really need an end to all logging of B.C.’s endangered old-growth forests, including an immediate ban on old-growth logging on southern Vancouver Island where almost 90 per cent is gone,” said Wu. 

Link to CBC article, photo gallery, and interview audio: http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/story/2011/07/26/bc-avatar-grove-vancouver-island.html


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