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Posted December 8, 2016

Media Release: New Drone Video of the Endangered Echo Lake Ancient Forest released

Ancient Forest Alliance, December 8, 2016

 
For Immediate Release
December 8, 2016
 
New Video Released of the Endangered Echo Lake Old-Growth Forest, includes amazing Drone Footage
 
Today the Ancient Forest Alliance (AFA) has released a new HD video that includes spectacular drone footage in the endangered old-growth forests around Echo Lake, between Mission and Agassiz, east of Vancouver.  
 

 
 
The new video follows up on the AFA’s previous drone video “Climbing Big Lonely Doug: Round 2” released a few months ago with already 74,000 views on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ancientforestalliance/videos/1094270450667541/ as well as the organization’s first drone video, released last year, “Save the Central Walbran Valley – Canada’s Grandest Ancient Forest at Risk” at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lyMPXHOjlK0
 
The original Echo Lake video (no drone involved) was released by the organization in October of 2012 – watch it here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HPstV14oZ6s
 
Local landowners and conservation groups are dismayed at road-building and old-growth logging plans that have been approved by the BC Liberal government in the community drinking watershed at Echo Lake, an extremely rare and endangered lowland old-growth forest between Mission and Agassiz, famous for its monumental redcedars and Douglas-firs, wildlife, and hundreds of roosting bald eagles during the fall salmon run. The region around the Chehalis, Harrison, and Fraser Rivers is considered to have the greatest concentrations of bald eagles on Earth in some years, where as many as ten thousand eagles arrive in November and December during the fall salmon migration.
 
Echo Lake is one of the very last unprotected lowland old-growth forests left in the Lower Mainland region - most remaining unprotected old-growth forests consist of much smaller trees on steep slopes at higher elevations. It is in the traditional, unceded territory of the Sts’ailes First Nation band, who run the Sasquatch EcoLodge and whose members run eagle watching tours nearby, and who have expressed concerns about the fate of the old-growth redcedars around the lake. 
 
In 2013 after a campaign by local landowners and the Ancient Forest Alliance, the BC government protected 55 hectares of the old-growth forests on the Crown lands on the south side of Echo Lake in an Old-Growth Management Area (OGMA). However, they left out a similar amount of old-growth and mature forests from the OGMA on the north and west sides of Echo Lake within a Woodlot Licence where the ancient trees are now threatened with logging.
 
Remotely-piloted drones equipped with high definition video cameras are a new tool being used by conservationists like the Ancient Forest Alliance to monitor and document endangered ecosystems like BC’s old-growth temperate rainforests.
 
The interviews and drone footage for the new Echo Lake video were taken in the late summer and early fall of this year, when road-building seemed imminent at Echo Lake and preliminary logging surveys had taken place. However, so far the road construction has yet to commence, a fortunate situation for the area’s forests that may allow time for a diplomatic solution for all parties involved.
 
“Drones not only allow us to get spectacular footage of our ancient forests to help raise public awareness, but they enable us to see what’s going on with remote logging operations that are normally hard to directly access. It can take hours to hike into these rugged sites where companies normally believe they can log with little scrutiny. However, with our drone, we can now see and film what’s going on in such areas”, stated TJ Watt, Ancient Forest Alliance photographer and campaigner who made the new Echo Lake drone video.
 
“From what we can see with our drone, it appears that so far the logging company has not yet begun building a road into the Echo Lake area…this gives us a bit of time to find a more diplomatic solution for the logging licensee and all the parties involved, if the BC government were to have the political will to ‘swap out’ the Woodlot Licence at Echo Lake for second-growth forests elsewhere. The Ministry of Forests has changed the boundaries of the Woodlot Licence in the past, in the 1990’s, and they can do it again”, stated Ken Wu, Ancient Forest Alliance executive director.
 
More Background Info
 
Landowners Stephen and Susan Ben-Oliel, who own a private land parcel on one side of the lake, and who draw their drinking water from the area, were informed last summer by consultants hired by C&H Forest Products that the logging company was planning to begin construction of a 1400 metre long logging road in their Community Watershed. The planned road on Crown lands leads to stands of old-growth redcedars and Douglas-firs on the northwest side of Echo Lake. The couple also discovered a series of recently flagged and spray-painted old redcedars alongside the main trail by Echo Lake in preparation for logging. Over a thousand people have now hiked the trail around Echo Lake since 2013, when the Ancient Forest Alliance began organizing guided tours through the area.
 
Last year, Forest Minister Steve Thomson stated that there were no logging plans for Echo Lake – See Global TV at: http://globalnews.ca/news/1906359/clear-cutting-threatens-echo-lake-eagle-colony/   
 
However, the Ministry of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resource operations recently approved C&H Forest Products’ road building plans. Conservationists are concerned that once major sections of road are constructed, the company will be motivated to carry out its logging plans in order to recuperate its costs.
 
See spectacular images of Echo Lake Ancient Forests at: http://www.ancientforestalliance.org/photos.php?gID=20
 
See various news media articles about Echo Lake from the Vancouver Sun, Globe and Mail, Global TV etc. at the bottom of the campaign page at: www.ProtectEchoLake.com
 
“The BC government needs to work with the local Woodlot Licensee, First Nations, the adjacent private land owners like myself, and conservationists to ensure the area’s legal protection. This could entail shifting the Woodlot License boundaries into an area of second-growth forest with an equivalent timber value and then expanding the Old-Growth Management Area around all of Echo Lake,” stated Susan Ben-Oliel.
 
Several biological surveys or “bioblitzes” have been organized by the Ancient Forest Alliance that have helped to inventory the area’s large diversity of flora and fauna. Many species at risk such as various species of bats, frogs, snails, dragonflies, and mosses have been found by biologists and naturalists. The data has been submitted to the BC Ministry of Environment’s Wildlife Species Inventory. 174 species of plant, 55 vertebrate, 153 invertebrate, and 38 fungi species were found during the two days of the 2014 bioblitz, while the 2015 bioblitz data is still being compiled.  See the 2014 bioblitz media release at: http://www.ancientforestalliance.org/news-item.php?ID=868
 
The Ancient Forest Alliance is also calling for a larger provincial plan to protect the remaining endangered old-growth forests across BC while ensuring sustainable second-growth forestry jobs.
 
In the Lower Mainland, about 80% or more of the original, productive old-growth forests have already been logged, including about 95% of the high productivity, valley bottom ancient forests where the largest trees grow and most biodiversity is found. See before and after maps for BC’s southern coast (Southwest Mainland and Vancouver Island) at: http://ancientforestalliance.org/old-growth-maps.php
 
“How many jurisdictions on Earth still have trees that grow as wide as living rooms and as tall as downtown skyscrapers? What we have here is something exceptional on the planet. Our ancient forests make British Columbia truly special – while we still have them,” stated Ken Wu, Ancient Forest Alliance campaigner. “More than ever we need the BC government to have the wisdom to protect our incredibly rare and endangered old-growth forests in places like Echo Lake”.


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