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Posted March 26, 2010

Hollywood spin for old-growth forest

Blue-tinted 'Na'vis' rally for ancient stand of cedar and Douglas fir near Port Renfrew

Suzanne Fournier, Vancouver Province, March 26, 2010

Hollywood spin for old-growth forest
Click for larger image

Ancient Forest Alliance photographer and big tree hunter TJ Watt, stands next to what is being called Canada's Gnarliest Tree. The old-growth Red Cedar measuring 12ft accross is covered with contorted alien-shaped burls and is threatened by logging.
Photo by TJ Watt

The Avatar Grove -- a stunning stand of old-growth trees on Vancouver Island -- is slated for destruction but local "Na'vis" hope to save it.

In reference to the James Cameron blockbuster film Avatar, the Ancient Forest Alliance will dress in blue like the indigenous Na'vis in the movie, at a demonstration Saturday in Vancouver.

Big-tree enthusiast and photographer T.J. Watt and AFA cofounder Ken Wu gave the name Avatar Grove to "a spectacular stand of old-growth red cedars and Douglas firs, some covered in giant contorted burls and hanging mosses in an alien rainforest."

Wu pointed out Avatar Grove is an ideal ecotourism destination, about 10 kilometres north of Port Renfrew, the jumping-off point for hikers who walk the West Coast Trail.

"We wanted people to know about this world of ancient trees that is just as beautiful," as that in the movie, said Wu.

Wu and Watt were shocked last month to find that the area's trees were spray-painted and flagged for logging boundaries.

"This is the most accessible and finest stand of ancient trees on southern Vancouver Island, in an area of maybe 1,500 hectares in the Gordon River Valley," said Wu.

"They've already logged about 88 per cent of the old-growth forests south of Port Alberni, and 95 per cent of the productive old-growth forests on low, flat terrain."

A Facebook site set up to save the grove, including what the AFA calls the "world's gnarliest tree" has attracted 6,000 hits.

Logging flags are now placed within a few metres of the "gnarliest" tree which is a massive red cedar, with a trunk distorted and distended by naturally-occurring burls caused by fungus growth.

It may be Avatar Grove to conservationists, but it's part of Tree Farm License 46 to the Teal-Jones Group, which owns the area's logging rights.

Teal-Jones, started in 1946 by Jack Jones and his sons Tom, Dick and Harry Jones, has become a four-generation family business, with a logging operation and other sites that now employ about 700 people.

April Choquette, an employee and daughter of Tom Jones had no comment yesterday.

Unlike other remote big-tree stands that require serious bushwhacking, Avatar Grove is easily accessible by paved road and good gravel road.

Even the town of Port Renfrew would like to see Avatar Grove preserved.

"This would be perfect for all the visitors we get who want to see big trees but can't do long, difficult hikes," said Jon Cash, president of the Port Renfrew Chamber of Commerce.

"Absolutely, the future of this town lies in ecotourism, not logging."

Forests Ministry spokeswoman Vivian Thomas said Teal Jones has "not yet submitted a cutting permit [which is] required before they can begin logging."

The rally will begin at Canada Place at 12 noon Saturday, then march to the Vancouver Art Gallery.


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