AFA supports Avatar Grove’s protection, calls for provincial old-growth plan

Feb 16, 2012 | Media Release

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Today’s announcement by the BC government to legally prohibit logging of the Avatar Grove by including it in 59.4 hectares of Old-Growth Management Areas (OGMA) was met with happiness by the Ancient Forest Alliance (AFA), the BC environmental group that identified and popularized the monumental stand of valley-bottom ancient redcedars and Douglas fir near Port Renfrew two years ago. Of 236 public comments, during the public input process from September through November, 2011, 232 comments were in favour of Avatar Grove’s protection.

“We commend the BC government for protecting this key tract of extremely rare valley bottom ancient forest – virtually all of the valley bottoms on southern Vancouver Island where the biggest trees grow have been logged, literally 95% of them, ” stated TJ Watt, the Ancient Forest Alliance co-founder who came across the Avatar Grove in December of 2009. “At the same time, thousands of hectares of old-growth forests are being logged every year on Vancouver Island, and millions of hectares of old-growth forests are endangered across BC. Our main goal is to see a new provincial plan to protect ALL of BC’s endangered old-growth forests and to ensure a sustainable second-growth forest industry instead.”

The Avatar Grove is an easy 15 minute drive mainly along paved roads from the town of Port Renfrew on southwestern Vancouver Island. Over the past two years thousands of people have visited the Grove. The AFA has held countless hiking tours and slideshows to thousands of people, taken media from across the country on tour, organized rallies and protests, and worked with the local businesses of Port Renfrew through the Port Renfrew Chamber of Commerce to ensure the protection of the Avatar Grove. The Grove was surveyed and flagged for logging when the campaign began in February, 2010.

See a Youtube Clip of Avatar Grove at:

See a photogallery of TJ Watt’s incredible Avatar Grove photos:

“This Avatar Grove campaign has been an ancient forest campaign on steroids – with thousands of people from across BC and around the world coming for a visit, and international media like Al-Jazeera covering the issue. This is a great day for the tourism businesses of Port Renfrew, Sooke, Lake Cowichan, and Victoria, and for the wildlife of Avatar Grove. The next step is to get this area legislated as a park or conservancy,” stated Ken Wu, Ancient Forest Alliance co-founder. “But it’s important to note that the Avatar Grove was always a springboard for our provincial campaign to protect all of BC’s endangered old-growth forests, and 2012 will be a year when we wage a relentless campaign to that end.”

The Avatar Grove has some of Canada’s largest trees, including scores of giant western redcedars – some over 4 meters (15 feet) wide, including “Canada’s Gnarliest Tree” with its 3 meter (10 feet) wide burl. The Grove itself is found on gentle terrain in the valley bottom, almost all of which have ebeen logged on southern Vancouver Island. Virtually all other remaining old-growth stands are also far along bumpy logging roads, on steep slopes. It is home to Vancouver Island’s largest wildlife species: wolves, cougars, black bears, elk, and deer.

Unfortunately the BC government has also compensated the licensee, the Teal-Jones Group, in Tree Farm License 46 where the Avatar Grove is found, with 30 hectares of second-growth forests and 27 hectares of old-growth (57 hectares). “We’re opposed to compensation for the company, as they don’t own the land or the trees on Crown lands – all they have are access rights to the resource through their license. If government enacts conservation regulations to protect deer or trout in areas where their populations are down, those with hunting or fishing licenses don’t get compensation for not being able to take all the deer or trout in those areas. Neither should logging companies on publicly-owned Crown forests,” states Ken Wu, Ancient Forest Alliance co-founder.

On Vancouver Island, over 600,000 hectares of productive old-growth forests (ie. old-growth stands with moderate to fast growth growing conditions, where most logging occurs) remain, out of 2.3 million hectares of such forests originally (ie. about 1.7 million hectares have been logged). About 200,000 hectares are protected in parks or off-limits to logging through Old-Growth Management Areas. In addition, another 700,000 hectares of Vancouver Island consists of low-productivity old-growth forests (ie. stunted bog and subalpine forests with small trees and slow growth rates, most of which are unprofitable to log). In percentages, about 75% of Vancouver Island’s original, productive old-growth forests have been logged, including about 90% of the valley bottoms where the largest trees grow, and about 95% of the valley bottoms on the South Island (south of Barkley Sound).

See maps and stats at:

The Ancient Forest Alliance is coming up to its two year anniversary. The organization was officially registered as a not-for-profit society in British Columbia on February 24, 2010.

Working to protect BC’s endangered old-growth forests and ensure a sustainable, second-growth forest industry.