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Posted February 18, 2012

Island version of Avatar Grove given provincial protection

A grove of giant, old-growth trees that has drawn thousands of tourists to Port Renfrew over the past two years will be protected by the province.

Times Colonist, February 17, 2012

Island version of Avatar Grove given provincial protection
Click for larger image

AFA photographer TJ Watt sits cradled in a giant redcedar in the Avatar Grove. This photo was taken during the hike when Watt and a friend first discovered the Grove in late 2009.

A grove of giant, old-growth trees that has drawn thousands of tourists to Port Renfrew over the past two years will be protected by the province.

Avatar Grove, a unique stand of centuries-old Douglas firs and red cedars, will be at the heart of an expanded, 59-hectare old-growth management area, Forests Minister Steve Thomson said Thursday.

"A lot of the requests that came in recognized the importance of the grove to the community," Thomson said in an interview.

"It's very good news for Vancouver Island."

Logging and mining are not permitted in old-growth management areas, but the designation is one step short of legislated protection given to parks.

The decision follows a public review period, with 232 out of 236 comments favouring protection.

The grove, with massive gnarled trees and an abundance of wildlife, gained public attention after being discovered by members of the Ancient Forest Alliance who gave it the Avatar nickname. Shortly after the initial visit in February 2010, the area was flagged for logging and a public campaign to save Avatar Grove gained steam. At that time only 24 per cent of the grove was in an old-growth management area.

To the amazement of many residents of Port Renfrew, a community formerly based on logging, the big trees drew a steady stream of sightseers.

"I was shocked at the amount of people," said Rosie Betsworth, Port Renfrew Chamber of Commerce president.

Through last summer, at least a dozen people stopped daily at the Chamber of Commerce information booth asking about Avatar Grove. Tours run by the AFA drew up to 80 people each time. "We owe the Ancient Forest Alliance a big thank you for bringing Avatar into the public focus," Betsworth said.

Ken Wu, AFA co-founder, said the success of Avatar Grove as a tourist attraction will be watched in communities across the province.

"It is important that environmentalism has a component on how people can make revenues and have jobs," he said.

Wu and co-founder TJ Watt applauded the provincial protection, but would have preferred the stronger park designation. They want the government to stop all old-growth logging on Vancouver Island.

"Virtually all of the valley bottoms on southern Vancouver Island, where the biggest trees grow, have been logged," Watt said. "Our main goal is to see a new provincial plan to protect all of B.C's endangered old-growth forests and to ensure a sustainable second-growth industry instead."

Surrey-based Teal-Jones Group, which holds logging rights for Avatar Grove, will be compensated with 57 hectares removed from other old-growth management areas. That is a legal obligation to license holders, Thomson said.

But the AFA questions why compensation should be paid on publicly-owned Crown forests.

"The company does not own the land or the trees, all they have are access rights to the resource through their licence," Wu said.

View the Times Colonist article here:  http://www.timescolonist.com/travel/Island+version+Avatar+Grove+given+provincial+protection/6168511/story.html


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