Click for larger image "Canada's gnarliest tree" grows in Avatar Grove, an area of spectacular old-growth redcedars and Douglas firs easily accessed from Port Renfrew, B.C. The AFA is asking the CRD to look at this area when planning their new regional park locations. Photo by TJ Watt
You have to wonder if Ken Wu doesn't feel like one starving man watching another starving man eat a meal.
Across northern Canada, environmentalists are high-fiving one another over Tuesday's landmark declaration of peace in the woods. No more logging in an Italy-sized swath of boreal forest stretching from coast to coast. The war is over. Hooray.
Meanwhile, Wu watches Vancouver Island's old growth disappear like Gordon Campbell during the HST debate.
Envious? Gosh no, says Wu, the Ancient Forest Alliance co-founder who has, seemingly, been fighting to preserve Island old growth since the Carmanah Giant was a sapling. He says the boreal forest deal just sets a template, an expectation that a similar agreement can be reached here.
Good luck. Forests Minister Pat Bell was quoted in these pages the other day as saying Vancouver Island has plenty of old growth, including 900,000 hectares of the 1.9 million hectares of Crown land.
That's technically true, but needs context, the critics contend. High-altitude bonsai scrub and massive valley-bottom trees might both qualify as old growth, but only in the same way that some fourth-line hack and Sidney Crosby are both hockey players.
"We've lost 90 per cent of the valley bottoms where the big trees grow," Wu says. "All you have to do is fly over the Island to see it. The old growth is tattered and in tiny patches on the Island."
Anyway, the Ancient Forest Alliance has now turned to what it hopes is a more sympathetic ear -- the Capital Regional District, which is just wrapping up hearings that will shape its parks strategy. The Alliance wants parks protection extended to individual stands of trees.
"In the CRD, we've got the biggest trees in the country," Wu says. "People don't realize that."
Among the candidates, the Alliance would like CRD Parks to preserve:
- The world's largest Douglas fir, the Red Creek Fir, which sits on public land 15 kilometres east of Port Renfrew.
- The San Juan spruce -- the biggest Sitka spruce in Canada and second-largest in the world -- on Crown land in the same area.
- "Canada's gnarliest tree," which sits in what Wu refers to as the Avatar Grove (though nobody called it by that name before the movie) on public land 10 kilometres north of Port Renfrew.
It's an interesting approach, the Alliance recognizing the environment to be a higher political priority on the south Island than elsewhere. ("This area has the greatest density of tree-huggers in the world," Wu says proudly.)
Which means the CRD is much greener in attitude than is the provincial government. The legislature walls have proven impervious to the enviros who regularly show up to protest on the front lawn, each tsunami of dissent crashing noisily, yet harmlessly, against the Belleville breakwater. The CRD, on the other hand, has been aggressive in protecting our leafy bits.
After the Liberals created a storm of controversy by freeing up Western Forest Products land west of Victoria for development, the CRD countered in March by agreeing to buy back 2,300 hectares of it, including the Jordan River surfing beach, 3.5 kilometres of shoreline along Sandcut Beach, and land next to the Sooke Potholes
Regional Park. The CRD will pay 65 per cent of the $18.8-million purchase price, while the province will toss in $2 million.
That wouldn't appear to leave CRD Parks with much money to spend for the private land on the Ancient Forest Alliance's wish list, but presumably transfers of Crown land from the province to the regional government would be easier to work out.