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B.C.'s old-growth forests have support of the Na'vi

Graeme Wood, Vancouver Sun, March 27, 2010

B.C.'s old-growth forests have support of the Na'vi
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Photo by TJ Watt

Downtown Vancouver was visited by Na'vi from the extraterrestrial moon Pandora at a small rally for B.C.'s ancient rainforests Saturday afternoon.

Led by a carnival band in green costumes, about 100 supporters of the Ancient Forest Alliance borrowed from images from the blockbuster hit Avatar in their protest against the logging of old-growth forests and marched to the Vancouver Art Gallery with its message that the provincial government needs to take more action to protect those scarce landscapes.

"Avatar's world under attack! What do we do? We fight back," shouted one activist on a bullhorn.

Many of the activists wore face paint resembling the fictional Na'vi humanoids from Avatar, which has an environmental theme of humans wreaking havoc on the ancient forests of Pandora in the quest for the mineral unobtanium.

"We're here to promote awareness and support to protect the last of our ancient forests because there aren't many left, and we can support the forest industry with second growth," said 28 year-old nursing student Jennifer Chow, who painted her entire body in blue.

"The theme of the movie was focused on protecting their forests so it's a good way to promote awareness to the general public. I camp every year, I love using the forest - so I feel really connected to it," explained Chow.

Playing more to the movie the alliance has recently dubbed an area near Port Renfrew as 'Avatar grove' because of its untouched, newly discovered old-growth forest within a tree-farm license.

According to the alliance old-growth forests need protection because they support biodiversity, counteract climate change, provide clean water for people and wildlife, are culturally significant, and are important for tourism.

"We want to phase out old-growth logging. We want a provincial old-growth strategy that inventories the remaining old-growth and protects it where it's scarce," alliance spokeswoman Michelle Connolly. "We want the [provincial government] to get a good understanding of where the last old-growth forests are."

She said there is nothing wrong with logging, and one of her organization's goals is to have sustainable jobs in forestry.

She said there are enough trees in the second-growth forests of B.C. to sustain the industry, however, the export of raw logs to foreign mills needs to end in order to ensure a guaranteed log supply for B.C. mills and value-added processing facilities.

Connolly's group also believes there needs to be more tax incentives for mills to accommodate smaller diametre logs from second-growth forests.

"We don't have enough mills to accommodate those logs. ...There are a lot of jobs lost because of that," said Connolly.

Connolly warns if nothing is done to identify and protect these forest they will be gone forever sooner than later.

The alliance also called on the government to "undertake new, democratic land-use planning processes to protect endangered forests based on new First Nations land-use plans, ecosystem-based scientific assessments, and climate mitigation strategies through forest protection."

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