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Posted February 12, 2011

BC Government considers protecting the Avatar Grove and Ancient Trees

Yesterday Minister of Forests, Lands, and Mines Pat Bell announced that the BC government is looking into the possibility of protecting the endangered Avatar Grove near Port Renfrew

Ancient Forest Alliance Media Release, February 12, 2011

BC Government considers protecting the Avatar Grove and Ancient Trees
Click for larger image

Flagging tape marked "Falling Boundary" still circles the giant redcedars and Douglas fir growing in the endangered Avatar Grove.
Photo by TJ Watt

Yesterday Minister of Forests, Lands, and Mines Pat Bell announced that the BC government is looking into the possibility of protecting the endangered Avatar Grove near Port Renfrew, and is also looking at developing new legal tools to increase protection of exceptional ancient trees and old-growth stands in BC. See the Vancouver Sun here

“We gladly welcome and commend any move by the BC government to protect the endangered Avatar Grove, and their recognition that ancient forests need more protection,” stated Ken Wu, Ancient Forest Alliance executive director. “I have to admit this was an unexpected surprise, considering the rocky relationship the BC government has had with our campaign for so long. If this is genuine, Minister Bell should be commended for taking the first steps towards positive change here. Lets see if this pans out.”
 
Forests Minister Pat Bell’s statements comes on the heels of a new Forest Practices Board report released on Thursday that calls on the BC government and industry to seek “creative ways” to save ancient trees, that the land-use policy framework exists for the BC government to readily protect the Avatar Grove, and that there is a “strong public interest in seeing more ancient trees and forest stands preserved to live out their natural lives and functions, and managed as a social, economic and ecological asset to the public and surrounding communities.” See the report at: http://www.fpb.gov.bc.ca/IRC174_NEWS_RELEASE_Complaint_highlights_public_value_of_ancient_trees.htm 
 
“We need progress for saving ancient forests at all scales - monumental trees, whole stands, and landscape level old-growth protections like valleys and regions. Starting with trees and stands is certainly a welcome beginning, while bearing in mind the greatest need is to protect old-growth ecosystems on a larger scale,” stated Wu. “Protecting an old-growth stand as special as the Avatar Grove from logging would be a first rate government decision that would benefit all British Columbians.”
The Ancient Forest Alliance is calling on the BC government to undertake a Provincial Old-Growth Strategy that will inventory and protect old-growth forests in regions where they are scarce, such as on Vancouver Island, the Lower Mainland, southern Interior, etc.  The AFA is also calling for the sustainable logging of second-growth forests (which now constitute most of the forests in southern BC) and for a ban on raw log exports to foreign mills.
 
An effective BC Old-Growth Strategy would necessarily entail legally-binding (not voluntary) old-growth protections at various spatial scales, including on the level of individual trees, stands, and landscapes:
 
Individual Trees – This is particularly important in regions where scattered “veteran” old-growth trees left behind by the original logging now constitute much of the remaining old-growth remnants, such as in the Coastal Douglas Fir zone on eastern Vancouver Island and the Sunshine Coast, and around some of the Lower Mainland. This would also be important for saving ancient trees of exceptional size and importance for environmental, tourism, historic, and cultural purposes. Individual old-growth trees also provide sources of lichens and arthropods to colonize surrounding second-growth stands and are often “wildlife trees” for birds, bats, salamanders, bears, small mammals, and invertebrates as they age and die. Protected old-growth veterans should have a significant buffer of protected trees around them.
 
Stands – Much of southern Vancouver Island consists of scattered “pockets” of old-growth stands dozens to hundreds of hectares in size in the sea of surrounding clearcuts and second-growth tree plantations, such as the 50 hectare Avatar Grove near Port Renfrew. Old-growth stands are important as refugia for both small and larger wildlife (eg. deer wintering range), and can provide high quality nature experiences for tourists and for environmental education and research initiatives. The Cathedral Grove near Port Alberni is perhaps the most famous old-growth stand of high tourism and ecological value in North America.
 
Landscapes – Protecting the larger and more contiguous tracts of old-growth forests is the most important priority from an ecological perspective. Larger old-growth tracts, such as whole valleys and clusters of valleys, where they still exist are better able to sustain species over time (especially wider ranging creatures like wolves and cougars), store large amounts of carbon, provide clean water for fisheries and as drinking watersheds, provide wilderness tourism experiences, and have greater resilience in the face of climate change. The Upper Walbran Valley, Nahmint Valley, East Creek Valley, and Clayoqout Sound with its scores of intact valleys and islands are examples of larger tracts of ancient forests that need protection on Vancouver Island.
 
Old-growth forests are important to sustain endangered species, the climate, tourism, clean water, and First Nations cultures. 75% of the original, productive old-growth forests have been logged on Vancouver Island, including 90% of the valley bottoms where the largest trees grow and most biodiversity resides. See “before and after” maps at: http://www.ancientforestalliance.org/old-growth-maps.php
 
 The Avatar Grove is the most easily accessible, monumental stand of endangered ancient redcedars and Douglas firs on southern Vancouver Island. Most of the route to the Avatar Grove is paved, it exists on relatively gentle terrain, and is only a 15 minute drive from Port Renfrew. Ancient Forest Alliance campaigner and photographer TJ Watt came across the Avatar Grove in December, 2009, while on an exploratory expedition in the Gordon River Valley. Support for protecting the Avatar Grove includes the Port Renfrew Chamber of Commerce, the Sooke Region Tourism Association, and elected political representatives at three levels, including federal Liberal MP Keith Martin, provincial NDP MLA John Horgan, and Regional Director Mike Hicks. See spectacular photos at:  http://www.ancientforestalliance.org/photos.php?gID=6
See the new Youtube clip “Canada’s Gnarliest Tree – Save the Avatar Grove” at:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l_uPkAWsvVw
 
“We’ve had thousands of people sign our petition, write letters, rally, and visit the Avatar Grove. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to save one of the most magnificent, easily accessible stands of monumental trees in BC that will hugely benefit the local economies of Port Renfrew, Sooke, Lake Cowichan, and Victoria,” states TJ Watt, Ancient Forest Alliance photographer and campaigner. “Saving the Avatar Grove would be the gift that keeps on giving. I commend Forests Minister Pat Bell for opening the door to potentially protecting the Avatar Grove – lets hope he makes good on his stated intention.”

 


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